Models thin on the ground

A couple of years ago London Fashion Week started to reassert itself. Back came the big runway shows; Burberry Prorsum, Matthew Williamson, Clements Ribeiro et al. LFW was on a high as it celebrated its 25th anniversary. Today London re-evaluates as the spectre of bad scheduling presented modelling agencies and shows with logistical headaches. Sat Bal (21 Sept 11)

The issues stem largely from London’s show positioning between New York, which ended last Thursday, and Milan which starts today.

Back in New York on Thursday the team at Marc Jacobs had their own problems organising a show that was postponed, citing Hurricane Irene as the reason. Marc Jacobs is arguably the story of this season (will he replace John Galliano at Dior?) and had the models in his thrall - models that should have been on the NY-Lon flight over the Atlantic, bound for London’s opening shows the next day.

The delays left London agencies scrambling to fill the stilettos of the absent girls for Friday’s shows. A similar scramble ensued later during the week  when Gucci’s Frida Giannini summoned models, reportedly booked for London shows, to Milan for pre-castings.

“Marc Jacobs’ New York schedule completely screwed up our week,” says Carole White, the founder of London-based agency Premier Model Management. “The sad thing is that very few of the girls who decided to fly off to Milan to cast for Gucci would have actually been accepted.”  

Premier's Carole White

White, herself a former model, founded the Premier agency and in the process claimed the  discovery of names including Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford. Her gripe is that Fashion Week’s  organisational problems are caused by the relentless rush of the NY-London-Milan-Paris whirlwind.

“Fashion Week scheduling is terrible,” says Carole White “and it could be helped by building a ‘travel day’ into the schedule so that models could recuperate after long-haul flights and be fresh for shows. We used to have a travel day, but no longer as the industry changes.”

“In 1983 models were paid £300 per show and in

 2011 they are paid £380 per show.”

The problems also hit Star & Co which was responsible for casting the Todd Lynn show. “'The upshot of all this will be that models will stop coming to London altogether because it’s just not worth it,” said Nick Burns, from Star & Co which also casted for PPQ.

Part of the problem is that up-and-coming models, keen to make a name for themselves, are naturally drawn to the big-money brands in New York and Paris, giving London a second division feel. “It’s true that London doesn’t pay well,” agrees Carole White. “Think about it; in 1983 models were paid £300 per show and in 2011 they are paid £380 per show. Yes, these are minimum payments and negotiable upwards but you can see that not much progress has been made!”

Neither are the rigorous travelling conditions ideal and would probably make most business execs weep.  “Take the Marc Jacobs show,” says White. “A non-casted model for that would have flown out from New York on Thursday and we’d send a car to pick her up and get here for around midday on Friday. She’d then go straight into fittings until midnight for the next day’s show and then have to be up around 6am on show day.”

No power naps there, then.  But also an insight into the lot of a young model who has an average of 21 castings for jobs in a day.  And a successful casting doesn’t mean success.“Girls can be confirmed for fittings and still get cancelled,” explains Carole White. “Of course, this doesn’t apply to established models who just get a phone call.”                                                      

 She feels that solutions lie with the British Fashion Council (which wasn’t available for comment) and at government body levels. Whether the newly Creative Industries Council and its Skill Set fashion arm (which was set up to forge links between creative business and government) will be in a position to wield power is a moot point.

But as Business Secretary Vince Cable declared at the inaugural meeting of the Council in July “We have the largest creative sector in Europe. But we can’t take that for granted.”

Over to you, Vince…


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