Earlier this week, two models, Anam Malik and Farwa Kazmi spoke out against designer Tena Durrani for delaying their payments after they did a photo shoot for the brand. In Facebook status shared by Anam Malik, she said that this is not the first time she or Farwa had to face such attitude from a brand.
Pakistani models have recently claimed that late payment to models has become a norm and that it is simply disrespectful to their passion and hard work.
As the post went viral within the fashion industry of Pakistan, a lot of other younger models (and some established ones, too) added their voices in and began a conversation about this side of the Pakistani Fashion Industry.
As someone who has followed the fashion world attentively, I was rather disappointed to hear that brands, that too, high-end designer brands were not being honest in their work. Fashion is art, and then ideally, the fashion world should help in supporting not only itself but all the other artists involved with it, from makeup, models to the photographers.
The question arises that where does this issue actually come from?
From what it seems, the models hold very little power in these interactions with designers. To understand this better we spoke to Saheefa Khattak and Anam Malik (the model who initially posted the viral status on Facebook). According to Saheefa, ‘it hurts when your work, work that you love, doesn’t give you the returns you deserve’. Anam Malik follows this up by saying that such treatment by big brands is highly disrespectful. ‘Someone is putting their time, effort and resources to make someone else’s designs and product look good, the least a brand can do is give their dues on time’. Anam also revealed that this issue of late payment is an issue she has faced with big brands and name brands.
Saheefa actually spoke quite extensively about the power dynamics between brands and models.
According to her, brands are quite strict with the timings for their shoots, however, they’re only strict about the models getting there on time. There is no mention of how long the shoot will last or actually when exactly the shoot will begin when they convey requirements to the talent. Models are told that the shoot will be for an hour, however, it turns out to be something that takes up their entire day. We also spoke to Rehmat Ajmal who put the issue in a few words: ‘ A model’s fee is a cost that should be catered to as soon as they have provided the service. It’s as simple as that.’
Echoing Saheefa’s words and sentiments, Anam added that people and agencies just call models up and give them a time to show up by, without any other context. So, going into the shoot, many models don’t know what they’ll be modeling on the day, be it formals, lawn, or bridals.
We also spoke to a few designers about what their thoughts on this discussion were.
The team at a young fashion house, Hira Ali Studios had this to say about the culture of late payments, “firstly, if any brand has agreed to pay a certain fee to any talent they should be upfront about payment terms and timelines. It’s extremely disrespectful when the talent has to constantly follow up. This is not to deny that free work doesn’t happen in the industry. Many of our friends have refused to take payment because of our relationship with them, while others operate on a give and take basis.”
Another designer we spoke to said on the condition of anonymity that their relationship with some models is beyond just professional. On the topic of money, they said that any model they share a personal relationship with usually refuses to take payment. However, the agreement is that when these models require clothes for events, the designer provides them free of cost. They did add that this arrangement is only with some models and others are paid as per the regular commitments.
There is clearly a power dynamic at play here between models and designers, but what leads to the situation of manipulation where models have to speak up against being exploited?
A possible answer can be found in the discussion happening within the models of Pakistan, right now. Some people mentioned how models don’t have contracts with designers and brands- this legal grey space is what allows brands to take these models for advantage. Anum Malik shared her sentiments about this too and she agreed, saying that the dealing between models and agencies/brands is currently too informal, and it’s within this informality that models are unable to ask for their rights. According to her, there is a dire need to have a standardized contract that all models need to have access to. More importantly, models need to be trained on how to deal with agencies and brands and need to know how to ask for the right deal. Currently, Anam says that most models are just learning from experience and that new models are pretty much in the dark about how to work the fashion world.
Rehmat, when asked about the need for training or a support system for younger models, said, “when I entered this industry I really wanted to form a union and I even spoke to a few colleagues regarding it. Sadly even if a few people get together there are models who don’t want to show signs of unity.”
She goes on to say that the problem has gotten to a point where no one can afford to wait for everyone to join in. According to her, it’s high time that someone takes the first step towards joining forces, maybe then other will follow suit.
the simple fact of the matter is: some brands have been using models under the premise of friendship or giving newer models the honor of modeling for them instead of monetary compensation
However, for the modeling industry and the fashion industry to grow beyond the point where it is now, there needs to be a serious attempt to impose professionalism. There’s also a serious need for models and artists to band together and create pressure; there needs to be an enforcement of a contract all across the industry.
Anum revealed to us that she and other models and artists are banding together so as to have a force that can counter big fashion brands- so let’s hope that they’re able to gain more support and that there is a blanket contract imposed across all the fashion industry.
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Cover Photo Courtesy: @imanammalik and @tenadurrani / Instagram