Published on March 7th, 2012 | by Dimitria Parisis1
The Marc Jacobs/Hailey Hasbrook conundrum: Working for Trade; A new vicious cycle?
Apparently Marc Jacobs does not pay his models, apparently Marc Jacobs uses underage models, and apparently Marc Jacobs has no problem working these underpaid and underage workers overtime. These three accusations have the fashion industry up in arms over Jacobs’ flat out disregard for CFDA guidelines.
But lets look further here. Why would a notable and internationally recognized brand not use their outstanding monetary success to pay their models? The answer is simple; because they are Marc Jacobs. For an aspiring model, to work with a global icon such as Marc Jacobs is an honor, and the line knows this.
Jacobs’ passive twitter response says it all: “Models are paid in trade. If they don’t want to work w/us, they don’t have to.”
Marc Jacobs probably sees these jobs as opportunities for future models to “work their way to the top” or to “meet” industry leaders who can get them there. No one is being forced to model, so why all the fuss?
The issue came to fruit when the non-paid, underage fit model, Hailey Hasbrook took to her tumblr account to describe her time working with Marc Jacobs. Here she chronicled her “VERY hectic and LOOOOONGG day,” and gave us all a play-by-play of her busy schedule and her late hours (a 4:30 am finish), spent with the Jacobs team. When asked by a fellow blogger about compensation she replied, “Not entirely sure. But for some things, like all of the Marc Jacobs stuff I did, I got trade, not cash.” This meant that the model walked away with clothing or accessories.
Many industry members were subsequently angered when this information was released to the Internet. The blog post went viral, but don’t look for it now, for it has been taken down by the model that instead posted a retraction. In the new post she noted that she meant no harm by her original writings and that she very much loved every moment working with the brand.
The problem with this scenario is that it takes precedence within the modeling industry. If Marc Jacobs pays his fit models by trade, the one area of modeling that many fashion models rely on for actual pay since runway is often done free, then wont other labels want to follow in his footsteps? What sane employer would pay their employees full price when they know that they can get the same work from eager free workers who are happy to do it without compensation?
Enter here, the new age phenomenon: The Intern.
This in fact sounds like the optimal exchange; free labor for great experience.
However, what happens when the experience still does not get you a paid, or higher position? If models depend on the money from fit training, then how will they make a living before they “hit it big”?
Many new graduates are facing this issue and are stuck in the intern position. Bouncing from company to company as an intern, and sometimes a paid intern, but being replaced when the next class of graduates enters the job market.
It is no secret that our recovering economy has recent, and even not-so-recent, college graduates scrambling to find reputable experience to put on their resumes. Job seekers are willing to do just about anything to keep their resumes better than the thousands of others they will be compared against, and employers are well aware. This means entry-level workers often times working for free, or for strenuous amounts of time.
And what does this mean for future employment?
Must we expect to work years and years for strenuous hours, with multiple jobs to support our underpaid “experience” gaining jobs, in order to make our mark on an industry?
This is the American dream, is it not?
Stories of those who came before us, facing great struggles and adversity, working their tails off, in order to one day become successful?
Because lets face it, if you really are a great a model and if you really are that hard of a worker, won’t you soon be promoted and compensated for the efforts and talent you bring forth to a company? Sounds fair enough.
Then again, when have we relied on companies and employers to be completely fair when no one is watching…