Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ksubi paid its MBFWA models in cash - with a 'trade' bonus

nicole pollard backstage at ksubi SS1213
Couldn’t help noticing a tweet from top Australian model Melissa Johannsen this morning, thanking Ksubi for a AUD 500 gift voucher which had just arrived. “Oh yea! thanks @Ksubi...such an awesome show!” read the accompanying caption on Johannsen’s Instagram shot of the voucher (below). Knowing how endemic the practice of payment “in trade” has become in the modelling business - i.e. designers offering clothes and accessories instead of cash - we assumed the voucher might have been Johannsen’s fee for the Ksubi show at Mercedes-Benz Australian Fashion Week on April 30th. Not so, responded Johannsen, who told us that she never works for trade – at least not in Australia.

melissa johannsen's instagram
One of Australia's hottest new modelling faces, 17 year-old Johannsen, who hails from Alice Springs, was scouted in Adelaide in 2010 and has since walked in three international show seasons for some major brands. 

While the standard MBFWA model fee is said to be AUD 300.00, we understand Johannsen was paid around AUD 400.00 for the Ksubi show. Needless to say, a AUD 500.00 gift voucher for current season stock is a nice little bonus.

According to Ksubi, all its runway models were paid this season - and each also received a cash voucher to spend in store. 

Given the economic climate, and many complaints that this year’s event was one of the toughest in terms of sourcing sponsorship funding, that could well make Ksubi the most generous fashion outfit in Australia at the moment.

Here is a shot we took of Johannsen en route to Ksubi to start getting prepped for the show, still in hair and makeup from Aurelio Costarella's earlier presentation:

And here is the Ksubi SS1213 finale: 

The practice of paying runway models in trade is not only common in Australia, it is rife across New York Fashion Week, with some estimating that up to 95percent of New York shows only offer models trade payment. Little wonder the issue is front of mind of the newly-minted Model Alliance lobby group in New York.

And it's not just small, indie labels with no money that are doing it. One of the biggest American designer names, Marc Jacobs, has been doing it since at least 2009. The issue blew up after New York Fashion Week in February, when 17 year-old model Hailey Hasbrook blogged about her experience working through the night doing fittings for Jacobs – in contravention of the Council of Fashion Designers of America's (voluntary) Health Initiative Guidelines that under-18 models should not work past midnight.

Hasbrook later blogged that she was “horrified” about the reports, saying she enjoyed working for Jacobs and preferred to be paid in trade. 

Hasbrook not only booked the Marc Jacobs and Marc by Marc Jacobs shows in New York, but also the Louis Vuitton show in Paris, amongst numerous other shows. All up, a stellar first show season for a brand new face. If speculation that Hasbrook even booked the Marc by Marc Jacobs Fall 2012 advertising campaign is correct, then clearly the 'payoff' for all that visibility may well be potentially lucrative commercial work. That's how Jacobs and co presumably see it. To be sure, competition is rife for a spot in 'blue chip' shows such as Marc Jacobs and French luxury brand Louis Vuitton, which Jacobs creatively directs. Australian Codie Young recently booked a USD 100,000 beauty campaign with Jacobs, after walking for him in New York for three seasons.

However different agencies have different policies, it seems, when it comes to the trade payment issue. 

In the leadup to MBFWA one Sydney agency told frockwriter that they had been informed by many local designers that there was no money for models for this year's event. According to the agency, its models wanted to do the shows anyway and they "couldn’t stop them".

Another agency told us that they were getting fed up with the issue.

Johannsen’s Adelaide “mother” agent, Brigette Mitchell at Finesse Models, was happy to go on the record on the subject.

“It kills the industry” said Mitchell. “Once somebody knows they can get something and not have to pay for it, they never will again. It’s like a cancer that has spread throughout all the fashion weeks. If a designer can’t afford to pay, they shouldn’t be doing a show. I’m sure the lighting guy is getting paid. Why aren’t the models getting paid?

As for the models who insist on doing shows regardless, Mitchell noted, “Models feel like they’re not being seen or they’re not in the loop of fashion week [if they’re not doing the shows], but agents can’t take 20percent of their trade. So we are working for nothing, even though we have overheads, but we have to do it to keep the models happy”.


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