[EXPLAINED] How Much Do Models Earn?

Joburg was abuzz this week with Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Joburg 2016. Celebrities, fashionistas and tag-alongs flocked to Sandton for this annual spectacle and everyone else was kept abreast of the glitz and glamour via social media. Prior to the event I gave you guys the low down on the numbers involved in making this event possible. Now I will tell you how much the models earned. 

According to a reliable source things in the fashion industry are getting dire instead of improving. While I am always very happy to give props where necessary, like the fact that AFI continues to give designers a platform to showcase their work, I have to pint out that I totaly agree. They can do so much better than this.

My gripe has always been that South African fashion weeks are not about business as they are about celebrities. New York, Milan, Paris and every fashion show in the world run in proper fashion industry like ours, fashion weeks are about designers showcasing their work and buyers seeing the work to purchase for their stores. Not in SA, here there are no buyers so the event is just to show off nje.

On average a model at New York fashion week will make anything between $1000 and $20000 per show, according to Vogue. Of course big name models make thousands more walking for big designers.

In South Africa this year at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week 2016, models took home R1400.00 (thats less than a $100) per show. The most shows a lucky model walked were likely 4. Worse still for male models because there aren't that many male clothes designers. So, this weekend a very lucky model would have made about R5600.00.

Impressive for a three day job. However, most models will only walk [on average] for 2 designers. The ones who get to walk for all of them are very lucky. Some models only made half of that 5grand.

So let's look at this modelling thing in a broader perspective; Making R5000 during fashion week doesn't sound bad on paper, but this is by no means a regular income. It's not unusual for models to go months without a paycheck.

Female models can get work doing editorials and ads but its tougher for the guys as generally male models aren't that sought after in the fashion industry. If you are a black guy, you are screwed because most jobs go to Stevel Marc anyway. 

When there is money coming in, it's not like all that cash goes straight into your bank account. No no no, you have to wait until the agency gets the cash and pull their cut. Let's not forget that prior to fashion week, you would have spent money preparing your portfolio for clients and creating those Z-card... then there is transport to get to and fro the fittings, rehearsals and the actual shows — THAT ALL COST MONEY!!

Things have also gotten a little glum because now in Mzansi, some fashion weeks are paying models per day and not per show. A model would get say R2000 per day. If he does all three days, he would get R6000 and then the agency gets its cut from that, minus his other expenses like transport. That whole weekend could result in him just enjoying only R3000 of that fee. Remember, not all models get to do all shows in all allocated days. That means someone else might literally get to only enjoy R500 for being part of a fashion week job roster.

The other difference between us and the established fashion weeks internationally is that models arent hired by designers per se. The organisers hire and pay models. A designer gets to choose from a pull provided by the organisers apparently. Of course, I am told, that designers can bring their own models if one chooses to but some fashion week owners do not allow that.  


Basically, our fashion industry and the modelling side of it still has a long way to go before it can be a sustainable bill paying job for models. Let's also be real; for black models, it is even harder. White models still get paid more and get more work than blacks. Fashion weeks are the only platform where majority is often black.

This is not to discourage anyone but to inform, so that if you decide to drop out of school, pack your bags to the big city or quit your job to pursue this, you would do so with an informed mind.

All this does not mean the industry is all about doom and gloom. There are people who are doing well and living off of the perks of this industry but they are far from being the majority.

If Maps Maponyane is unavailable, you might get that big tv ad or campaign and make some good cash. Until then, don't quit that job at McDonald yet just because you got booked for a fashion week.

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