Fashion companies today are only worried about one thing: engagement. Likes, comments and shares are the currency of the digital world, and brands will do anything for them.
It used to be that models were the only marketing tools for companies to show off their clothes and gain public interest; our fascination with pretty people means models like Gigi and Bella Hadid can’t go to the gym without paparazzi swarming them, and five articles popping up dedicated to what they were wearing. They’re in high demand during fashion month as brands know wherever they go, the press follows.
Now though, they have to share the spotlight with influencers from all over the internet. The first eyes were rolled when Youtubers started to appear at shows a few years ago, and again when Instagram names joined them. But this year, the controversy was greater than ever when Tik Tok stars were invited to big name shows- Charli D’Amelio posted a video to her channel from the Gucci runway this year, and it’s since got 31M views, 5.5M likes and 32.4K comments – the engagement speaks for itself.
The world of marketing is constantly changing with the times and trends, and influencers and models may have to start competing with each-other in a market that’s constantly growing and already overcrowded. Both have their advantages and disadvantages and it can be hard to compare them, so we spoke to some fashion models, influencers and those who do both to see what the two worlds are really like.
When we asked Abi Elise (@aaaaaaaaaabi) about being paid as an influencer, she said she has issues with, “brands not believing the value of my content and hard work is worthy of what I ask for as payment”. As a self-employed influencer, she has to manage her own income and speak to brands directly, rather than through an agency like most models. Although this is common with many self-employed jobs, a lot of influencers are often younger and there’s a possibility brands can take advantage of that – many may not yet know their worth, or feel comfortable broaching the subject of pay. Abi says, “I’m really open to talking about the subject of pay though as I feel like it’s super taboo, but the more it’s spoken about the more brands (and influencers) will know about what to charge/pay because there’s unfortunately no handbook!”
“I’ve had problems with brands not believing the value of my content and hard work is worthy of what I ask for as payment.”@aaaaaaaaaabi on Instagram
Whilst models may be somewhat protected because of their agencies, they can also have bad experiences – Hannah Barnes (not her real name) says getting money from clients after a job “can be a slow process.” And then there’s the cost of travel: “I’m in a lot of debt in NY because my agency advanced me lots of costs like the visa, flights and accommodation etc and also make you pay for every card you use at a casting and for your picture on the website. My first couple of trips I wasn’t very successful so the debt really built up and now I will have to do a lot of work before I ever get out of debt.” That is, if they get paid for all their work – Hannah tells us editorial work for magazines and similar can be, “pretty poor pay – I know that lots of girls in NY have done editorials completely for free.”
The world is beginning to demand diversity, and in this respect influencing is a lot further ahead than modelling. Victoria Secret, a well-known and successful lingerie brand, recently made headlines about their lack of diverse models and faced huge social media backlash- proving that today’s consumer cares more about representation and less about the white, slim, able-bodied model they’ve seen so many times.
Lack of choice isn’t the problem however. Variety on the runway is down to the “brand and casting direction,” says Hannah; “diversity in terms of body type is still a big issue especially in Paris – I think London and NY are more diverse in castings but most of the girls on the runway continue to be very slim.”
“It’s rare for girls to not be slim – especially at the really good shows. More inclusivity could only be a positive for the industry.”Hannah Barnes (not her real name)
Rachel Perera (@pererauk) told us her problem with certain modelling jobs: “Even though it’s super easy to cover tattoos nowadays, brands and clients always tend to look for certain looks, so tattoos definitely make it harder for work. Whereas brands for influencer work love diversity and it doesn’t make that much of a difference for them as you’re promoting the products/events to your fans etc.”
Mental health is no longer a taboo subject, and all of the girls were more than happy to talk about their own experiences within their jobs. With both being directly linked to their appearance or aesthetic, it can be a major trigger for depression and anxiety if they see any downturn in engagement or jobs.
“You have to be pretty thick skinned to endure fashion week castings because it’s like rejection after rejection some days,” says Hannah. It can be pretty tough to hear that, but she says, “it also brings me lots of happiness and if i felt it was really damaging i would step away.” Abi has also struggled at times: “receiving hate comments can affect my mental health in the sense of feeling demotivated, unworthy and stressed but I’m very thankful to have many blogger/ influencer friends to talk to who completely understand.”
Other than their mental health, both jobs can be physically demanding also – flying around the globe for a month or more of jam-packed shows, or uploading endless content to stay relevant and entertaining, on top of other jobs; both Rachel and Abi told us they have a few different ways of earning because, “you just can’t guarantee work.”
Both careers may appear to be attractive outwardly, but there’s a danger of being taken advantage of by brands- something that can only be stopped by transparency and change. We asked the girls what they wanted to see from their industries in the near future. For Rachel, more needs to be done around guaranteeing work payment for self-employed influencers and models.
“I find bigger brands to be the worst in terms of amount and actually getting paid… people don’t pay on time and sometimes I have to wait for months!”@pererauk on Instagram
Hannah says, “there’s still room for improvement in the way models are treated at castings – we’re expected to wait on the streets in the winter occasionally for some castings, and queue for hours late into the night.” And Abi called for a better conversation around payment for work as an influencer and also she’d love to, “see more beautiful bodies of every shape, size, colour and ability in brand campaigns and on their pages/websites.”