What I am seeing in the Modeling Market place.
The following are my personal observation and editorializing.
I have tried to keep the Modeling Advice site as factual as I
can and state what I know and do not know. On this page of the
site I take the liberty to state my personal thoughts, opinion,
observations and what may be bugging me about the industry. Please
take what is said here with a grain of salt. Also, I throw this
material up on the web quickly so please forgive the spelling
and grammatical errors. This show why I am a photographer and
not a writer.
2/8/2007 Models to Thin?
We are in the middle of the Fall fashion show season. This
year the talk is not of the newest designs or designers but of
the models. What is all of the buzz about, how thin is thin.
The fashion industry is once again being taken to task about
the ultra thin models working the runways. The critics charge
this is not only unhealthy for the models but project an unhealthy
and impossible to obtain image to young women. The fashion designers
claim they are artist and should be able to do or demand anything
they want. And they want thin (really more skin and bones). There
has definitely been a creep downward in the sample dress size.
It has moved from a size eight to a six to a size four. For some
designers putting a size four dress on a size zero model is the
look. Some European countries have enacted laws requiring models
to be of a minimum body mass to work but for USA and the New
York shows only some unenforceable guide lines. This pretty well
leaves it up the designer to decide how thin is thin and which
models are skin and bone enough to work.
Here in Portland we have Nike taking a different approach.
They have decided fit is the new look and have announced that
they will be working to double the number of Nike stores. As
sports and fitness cloths become the new casual look Nike is
banking on America moving to a casual health conscious look and
life style and away from the anorexic drug addict look of high
New York fashion. We will see how the fashion world turns and
what types of models will be in the most demand.
2/11/04 UPN Top Model
At this point it is half way point on this seasons "America's
Next Top Model" and unlike the first season that did a surprising
good job of show what it was like getting into fashion modeling
this season seem to be more focused on capturing that all important
15 to 35 male viewer. It may capture more viewers but if you
are trying to get an education on what fashion modeling is all
about it is not doing that good of a job. Not that there aren't
little blips here and there but nothing like the first season.
There are still five more shows so it is wait and see if it gets
One part of the show I have to really take exception to are
the photo shoots. I the real world a model would know what a
shoot was about and if she and her agent thought it was a good
idea to do. This is also where a résumé comes in.
As a photographer doing a special type of shoot you would look
to see if a model had special skills in area before selecting
them. In this I am thinking of the nude body paint shoot (does
the model or their agent have problems with nudity), the hanging
from the harness shoot (does the model have rock climbing experience),
and the water tank shoot (does the model have a swimming or scuba
diving background). You don't pull just any runway model in for
that type of shoot. In the case of the hanging harness shoot
and the water tank shoot it would be nuts to do an actual shoot
that way today. The possible liability problems with the hanging
harness shoot are incredible, especially when today you could
shoot it in a nice safe the studio and photoshop the final image
together. As the photographer on a set you are responsible and
liable for everybody and everything at the shoot. You are also
responsible for protecting the client. In seeing that shoot,
the lack of roping folks off, creating safety lines, the trauma
the models were put through and the fact that there is no need
to do shoots that way with today's technology (and cost savings),
that was a shoot you would only see on TV. If anybody approaches
you and suggest doing shoot like this because it was what was
on this show, tell them they are nuts.
7/4/03 UPN Top Model
Ok, I have to say just a brief word about the Reality TV show
"Top Model." It is down to the last episode and although
I started out skeptical, I think they have done a good job of
showing how the top tier fashion-modeling world works. Now you
do have to get by the endless self-promotion of Tyra Banks and
other folks and businesses (almost like one long infomercial)
and the soap opera dramas that make for good reality TV, and
trying to maintain some political correctness (considering a
plus size as a top fashion model, give me a break), but the basic
info is all there. I am afraid, though, that because of all the
TV hype that someone who is trying to learn about this part of
modeling might get to distracted by the drama and self promotion
and miss some of main information. I see this especially with
the one liner jewels of info that get thorn out as just subtext.
But overall I think they have done a good job of showing what
high fashion modeling is like.
Also, keep in mind this whole show has little to do with commercial
modeling, glamour modeling (they threw the glamour model, Katie
most likely to pose next to a Corvette, out right at the start),
small town modeling, alternative modeling and so on and so on.
But then again the top tier fashion modeling has always grab
the spot light.
Now, I did think Elyse was the only high fashion model in
the lot right from the start and would be the ringer to win (they
like them skinny). But now as it is down the last three and since
they only did one fashion shoot and everything else was editorial,
glamour, bathing suite and lingerie, it may end up that she is
not versatile enough for their final pick. Getting into the fun
of the show I would pick Elyse for fashion, Adrianne for Hollywood
(with the looks, distinctive speech, and hardcore background
she could be the next Mai West) and Shannon for the return of
the California beach girl. We will see what happens.
The show did get picked up for 10 more episodes and they are
looking for the next round of wannabes. If interested check out
UPN Top Model.
But then again if you really have what it takes to be a top model
skip all of this just send your photos and stats to one of the
top New York agencies. You will start working and earning much
A couple of quick observations
It looks like "fashion week" in New York cut the
number of runway shows in half this year. The shows in 2001 started
the week of Sept. 11 and had to be canceled and rescheduled.
This year in order to avoid conflict with 9/11 activities the
shows had to squeezed in between the Paris shows and the London
shows. Of course half the number of shows, half the number of
jobs for fashion models walking the runways and maybe half the
number of models needed.
Another note I saw was that there seems to be fewer photographer
shooting catalogs in the "south beach area" in Florida.
Fewer catalog shoots mean fewer models needed. The question comes
in is this a sign of fewer catalogs (Fingerhut went under, along
with several other catalogs plus some catalogs have reduce pages
and mailings), a shift to just styling cloths without using models
like Cold Water Creek and other, a shift of the work to other
locals like Arizona or Cancun, or are they shooting in the studio
and then using Photoshop to digitally drop the models into unique
location (saw some of this in Spiegel last catalog). Again all
of this can have an impact on the number of models needed and
what they might get paid. The slow down in the economy may be
finally having an impact on some of the high-flying ad budget
of the past. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues.
Free speech is anything but free
With a fellow online free model information site being taken
off line this week by scare tactics of the attorneys for one
of the questionable online listing services, the point comes
home that American free speech is far from being free. I look
back to the mother of all examples of this when 60 minutes failed
to air a story on big tobacco because of the fear of the cost
of a law suite. Failure to have the money to fight a possible
law suite renders the first amendment mute especially against
wealthy corporations. In this case it also leaves the consumer
(a hopeful model) with only one side of the story, the sales
pitch from one of a number of questionable modeling service businesses.
These organizations have found that just the hint of a law suite
or just the vaguest request from their attorneys to a web site
hosting company will have the result of getting the plug pulled
on any web site that might report any criticism of them. So this
week another site goes dark that had information to help the
consumer, the wannabe model, make an informed decision.
You have to realize that most of the online model information
sites (this is not referring to the paid model listing sites
that poses as information sites) are just run by individuals
who have taken on the challenge of spreading the word about the
real modeling business. For other model information sites, just
like the Modeling Advice site, there is no money in it. You,
the web surfer, get valuable information about the modeling industry
for free. This also means there is no money to hire an attorney
to fight any legal action that might be thrown at you. So without
the ability to stop a web hosting company from pulling the plug
on your site, any criticism of one of these questionable organizations
means death to the site, the death of a valuable opposing point
of view and a death to free speech.
You also need to realize that large news organizations who
might have the means to fight one of these shady organizations
just don't care about model wannabes or their parents. I flash
back to an old beauty TV commercial where the tag line was "don't
hate me because I am beautiful." This attitude exists toward
model wannabes. Although we love the successful supermodel the
struggling wannabe is viewed as vain and foolish for desiring
to be a model. Why should a wannabe think they have those special
star qualities to be a model? So the regular news media thinks
that vain, foolish wannabe model deserves to be taken advantage
of by these questionable organizations. So they never take on
the story and without the small model information sites you left
with only the sales pitch and promises from one of these questionable
model service organization.
The small voice silenced, the news media ignoring the story,
all of this leave the young, unaware, ill-informed, and trusting
wannabe model open for the costly trap of one of these questionable
organizations. And it shows me how unfree free speech is in America.
A Good Quality Test Shoot
is hard to find
One bit of advice I have often given a beginning model is
to try and track down test shoots. This often means trying to
find free or a model's time-for-prints (TFP) shoot. These shoots
give a new model experience being in front of the camera and
valuable photos for his or her portfolio and comp card. What
you need are top professional photographs that show you are a
first-tier model and ready to work. Twenty years ago test shoots
with professional photographers were fairly easy to find. Creative,
independent, photo studios did most of the fashion photography.
These photographers needed to do test shoots to keep their shooting
skills honed, to test new equipment and film, and to experiment
with new creative photographic ideas. Photographers were always
looking for a warm body to put in front of the lens back then.
In regional markets, independent studio photographer's need
to do test shoots have change quite a bit. More and more fashion
shooting has moved to large corporate or in-house studios. Just
as the fashion boutique and even the fashion department stores
has given way to the big box stores and Wal Mart-type discounters,
so have the independent fashion photographers given way to the
corporate and in-house studios. Just as fashion individuality
has been replaced by fashion-for-the-herd at a discount, so the
creative, independent photo studio has been replaced by the corporate
photo sweatshop - cranking out the same looking photo again and
again. Independent studios have moved away from mainstream fashion
photography and into specialty niches. So today the independent
shooters have no need for doing unpaid test shoots. The corporate
shooters, on the other hand, are tied to a system that looks
at the bottom line and free test shoots just produce red ink.
These days it is far more likely that a model will find work
related to fashion then an independent studio photographer (and
get paid more). So this makes the search for good quality free
test shoots a lot harder.
If a new model can find a free test shoot these days, it is
most likely with a beginner or a semi-pro. Neither have the skills
to produce first tier photographs. You will get some experience
in front of the camera and even some prints from doing shoots
with these types of photographers, but you portfolio will say,
I am a beginner'. This leads to not being trusted with
the big, important, well-paid shoots. Photos from beginners and
semi-pros may in fact scare away work and certainly will not
get you the best paying work.
So it is much more difficult today to get the type of free
test shoots a model needs to launch his or her career.
Translating - "I want to be a model"
Since creating the Modeling Advice site, I have had numerous
emails proclaiming, "I want to be a model." There are
all types of modeling assignments so this wanting to become a
model would allow for almost anyone to be a model. So I would
email back, "Sure, if you work at it you can do some type
of modeling." As the years have gone by, I have come to
realize that for someone not in the business there is only one
type of model. Here is where I had to learn to translate "I
want to be a model" to "I want to be a very high paid,
high fashion, runway model - preferably a supermodel." Now
that type of model, only a select few will ever become. There
is a better chance of winning the Power Ball lottery then becoming
a top fashion model. Having now learn this model wannabe lingo,
I respond to emails about "I want to be a model" with
a new line of advice. I say, "it depends on what type of
model you want to become. Please read the Modeling Advice site
to find out about what types of modeling are out there and what
might be right for you." I hope this new line will get wannabes
to explore all of the possible modeling options and opportunities
and look beyond just the high fashion runway.
It is better to be turned down
One of the most difficult things about working in the modeling
biz is telling someone they do not have what it takes to be a
fashion model. I have experienced this in my work as a photographer
and through emails to the Modeling Advice site. We are often
told when growing up that if we want something badly enough and
work hard enough we can achieve anything. Fashion modeling is
an exception. You may dream of being a fashion model and be ready
to work very hard, but if you were not born with the right genetics
it will never happen. The height and body size for fashion modeling
is very restrictive. The camera either loves you or shows up
your shortcomings. Perhaps the worst is when you have everything
going for you except one feature (like a too-broad nose) and
that one feature can keep you from getting work. The modeling
business can be very harsh in this manner.
I always find it upsetting to have to tell an excited and
hopeful young person, that because of some body trait that they
are born with and have no control over, they will not be able
to achieve their dream. Modeling is one of those few things in
life that you either have what it takes or you don't; and if
you don't, there is no way to get it. There is, unfortunately,
a sub-part of the modeling industry that survives and thrives
on praying upon wannabe dreams. These less-then-reputable organizations
make an art of avoiding telling someone that they will never
make it as a fashion model. Some modeling schools, model searches,
and the questionable modeling agencies survive on "we don't
know what they want but we are sure you have it" and "if
you take our class and work hard you can achieve your dream."
These lines are usually followed some dollar amount you need
to fork over right away if you want your dream to come true.
I would much rather tell someone up front (as painful as it is)
that he or she does not have it and here is why, then to string
them along to soak a few dollars out of them. But these days,
apparently, over half of the organizations out there have a different
view then mine.
Perhaps the most difficult task for a wannabe is how to get
an honest answer to, "Do I have what it takes to be a fashion
model?" Unfortunately, finding the right person to answer
that question is very difficult.
Fall buying is on, Spring Fashions Delayed
The Sept. 11 attack definitely had its effect on the fashion
industry. Spring fashion week was just getting underway in New
York when the attack occurred. Almost all showings were canceled
and moved back to October. With the new fear of flying that has
gripped the world, the question is, will the buyers return to
Currently, the Fall lines are at the stores and on the racks.
The dress up look and fashion designer must are out there but
so are a lot of the casual cloths we have gotten use to. Will
folks buy enough new designer stuff to start a trend to dresser
look or will it just be a fashion curiosity?
In follow up on Spiegal, they have gone heavy with a very
dresser designer look (I personally love the look). The question
remains will folks buy this stuff. So far Spiegal's sales are
down 22% for the year. Newport News catalogs, part of the Spiegal
group, is covering all the fashion bets. They have come out with
catalogs that follow the fashion dresser look but also have put
out a catalog with 40 pages of blue jeans. We will see how their
The out come of all of this will be interesting to see. If
fashion continues to casual down there will be no need for fashion
designers or supermodels, as you can just go to Wal-mart and
get what you need. We may also see a split in fashion with the
haves wearing designer labels in their gated communities (the
vision of Versaci this Fall) and the masses of have nots wearing
casual, functional attire from big box stores. Or will folks
want to dress and look better in hard economic times and those
who do, like fashion models, become trend setters again? Will
those who dress up and look sharp get and keep jobs while those
who look shabby and ungroomed get turned out into the cold (which
reminds me I need to get a hair cut)? It will be interesting
to see how this fashion seasons plays out.
6/20/2001 Priced out of the Market
I had sometime today while waiting for a client to show up
to sort through some very old magazine clippings. These clippings
were pages I had trimmed out of the jewelry trade magazines back
in 1983-85 and diligently placed on a shelf to sort out later.
Other items got placed on top of these clippings and so they
sat. I have been on a cleaning binge lately and this stack of
clipping's turn was up. Most of this pile, now very dated, got
toss, but in digging through this stack one point became clear,
we use to do a lot more photographing jewelry on models.
Most of this stack of clippings contained new product sections
of the jewelry trade magazines. Almost every page had one or
more photos of models wearing jewelry. Contrast this with today
jewelry trade magazines' new product sections which never contain
models wearing jewelry. Model shots are so rare today they usually
only found in special editorial section sponsored by one of the
large trade organizations. So why almost no model pictures today?
The cost of the shoots.
I had a client email the other day and was thinking of doing
a shoot with a model wearing her jewelry for the cover of her
Christmas catalog. She wanted to know the cost of such a shoot.
In the past we had always done regular product shots of her jewelry.
I knew she had no idea how much a live model shoot would cost
and I knew it was out of her budget. I went through the exercise
of preparing an estimate and breaking down the cost of such a
shoot (including model and agency fees, casting fees, makeup
artist fees, hair stylist fees, wardrobe expense, studio cost
and photographer fees). Of course it was way out her budget,
as it has been for most clients for the past ten years.
So what has caused this change to where model shoots are not
longer affordable by clients. I believe it has come from the
raise of the supermodel. In the 70's and first of the 80's a
model's fee was a quarter of a photographers fee. You would also
expect a model to be able to do her hair, makeup and have some
basic wardrobe items. As the supermodel came on the scene modeling
fees, of all types, sky rocketed. Today regular model fees are
often two and half time photographer fees. Also, the expectation
has become for the supermodel and regular model just to show
up and have there hair, makeup and wardrobe taken care of by
others. In the 70's a shoot would consist of a photographer and
a model. Today you have five or more people working on a shoot.
All of this has led to pricing jewelry model shoots out of the
What will the future hold? If this trend continues the model
shoots maybe restricted only to the top tier of the marketplace.
Shoots for second tier, small market and beginning models maybe
gone. This will mean less modeling work overall and will make
it harder for models starting out to get tear sheets.
5/12/01 Spiegel's Fall 2001 Preview
Jane received her copy of the Fall 2001 preview catalog from
Spiegel the other day. The special offer with the catalog talked
of discounts and helping to determine what Spiegel will buy for
its big fall book. I found this preview catalog quite interesting
for two aspects. One was the state of the fashion industry today
and the other was as an example why fashion model have to be
a certain size.
In the past fashion designers new designs would set the fashion
trends. Buyers for fashion retailers tried to know these trends
and buy new trendy garments that suited their customer base.
In many ways fashion was dictated to the consumer. The fashion
designers with their superior sense of style and good taste would
design the clothes. The fashion magazine editors who had even
better taste and fashion sense foretold the consumer what was
to come. The fashion savvy store buyers then loaded the racks
with what one should ware that season. Then the fashion trend-setting
consumer who followed all of this would be the first to purchase
these new styles and would be admired for their good taste. The
rest of the masses would then follow. The bulk of the clothes
sold through department stores, special fashion boutiques, and
a select group of catalogs. This structure held up pretty well
until the first part of the last decade. At that time the fashion
designers got silly and tasteless, the fashion magazines simply
reported on what designers put out and waited to see if any body
bought it, buyers bought the silly stuff designers put out and
then could not sell it at the mark up needed, specialty catalogs
and specialty chain stores popped up everywhere, the casualing
down, blending in, anti fashion trend grew and this went full
circle with the designers following the casual trend rather then
leading. This casualing down, blending in, anti fashion trend
ultimately leads to putting designers out of business as Old
Navy becomes as hot as fashion gets. (i.e. designers shot themselves
in the foot with doing this in the nineties) So last fall the
designers tried to bring back a more fashionable, dressier look.
Most stores stocked some of this dressier look but also carried
lots of dockers and cotton T-shirts. The exception was Nordstorm
who went heavy into this new designer trend and ended up firing
the CEO as sales stagnated. This new trend was not widely accepted
and did not make it to the street. So now Fall 2001 fashion collection
comes out and they were shown in February. The designers continue
to show the dressier look hoping to save their world. The fashion
editors respond with "who cares, nobody wears this stuff."
The retail buyers, like Spiegel, don't know what to do. So Spiegel
produces a preview catalog as a market research tool to see what
people will buy. If consumers order from the designer's selection
in the catalog, then Spiegel will fill those orders this Fall
and buy more for their big book. If no orders, then Spiegel is
back to selling jeans and T-shirts. But at least they are not
stuck with inventory they can't move and mounting losses, so
Ottos happy. Now this is truly a change in the fashion industry.
Finding out what the consumer wants and not what the designer
dictates (Something the lifestyle catalogs have been doing for
The other part that I found of interest in this preview catalog
was its timing. Since the Fall shows were just in February and
considering the time it takes to design, shoot, layout, print
and distribute a 280-page catalog (even with the new digital
technology) all of the clothes shown in this catalog had to be
samples straight from the designers. Designer samples come in
one size and therefor the models who wear and show these clothes
must come in one size. This is an excellent example why fashion
model guide lines for height and size are so strict. If you fit
the sample size you work, if you are any other size you do not
work. It may not seem fair but that is how the business works.
1/22/02 Update to the story
Spiegel ended up putting everything from the preview catalog
into their big book. A much more dress look then the general
market place. There sales for fall and Christmas dropped 20%
and were one of the big losers for retailers this in the second
half of 2001 (quick sell my share in the company). We have also
seen a number of the designer labels file for bankruptcy and
top designers retire. WalMart, Target and casualing down were
the winners. I am even seeing the fashion magazine putting movie
stars and pop stars on their covers. The days of the super model
may be coming to an end and those high modeling fees my be coming
back down to earth. We will watch and see.
2/11/04 Continuing Story
Spiegel Group filled for bankruptcy almost a year ago. There
January sales have gone from $183.9 million in 2000 to 98.6 million
this January (almost half). It looks like their gamble did not
pay off and it will be surprising to see them even stay in business.
Fashion News 1/26/2001
The big New York ready ware runway show happen next month
and it will be interesting to see what direction designers go
for Fall 2001. Spring lines are out and are running middle of
the road. The big fashion news is no big changes. Summer looks
like cotton, bright colors if you wish or not, pant length anywhere,
skirt length anywhere, heel height anywhere, dress it up or dress
it down but keep it neat and simple. I don't think any one is
taking a big risk for summer especially with so may department
stores in trouble. We will see what makes it on the racks and
out the door.
Thanks for stopping by,
I have been following the Fall fashions from the ready ware
shows last spring, through the fashion magazines and on to the
racks in the store. The fashion designers tried to change the
fashion trend from going casual (even grung) to more rich and
dressy. The high end stores bought into the look but the low
end stores did not (Nordstrom yes, Wards no). Now the top retail
analyst on Wall Street say that it has flopped and fashion retailers
are not doing well. In theory this lack of sales could effect
fashion designers bottom lines and next year's promotion budgets.
Fashion designer's promotion budgets effect how many photo and
modeling jobs might come up and lower budgets per job. It will
be a wait and see if this comes about but I would not buy stock
in Nordstrom any time soon.
Thanks for stopping by,