Image and Reputation in the Fashion World

Posted on April 6, 2013


This past week, I have talked with many different designers. What is interesting is that I hear similar things from them about models. Here are a few of the things they have said to me over the past week. Think about some of these mis-steps and how you fit might possibly fit them, and learn so you don’t make the same ones. Keep in mind that this is geared for people who are in the fashion side of modeling. In this realm of the modeling world, you don’t have any chances at mistakes. If you make a mistake, you hope you can recover. That is how this part of the modeling world works – lots of people want to be fashion models. They don’t really care that you messed up and want to improve – you had that chance, and didn’t do it in their mind. Don’t be that person who gets kicked out.


The one comment that I hear repetitively from them is how models are making judgements about other models with their outfits. For instance, one model complained about how another model looks heavy in one of the outfits. Another model commented that a model would be better off wearing nothing than an outfit that a designer selected for a model. Many times designers hear how the model doesn’t like something and “won’t” wear an outfit. Let’s be clear on something here: as a model, it isn’t your judgement that matters. You job in the fashion world is to just wear and sell the clothes you wear. You aren’t there to tell other models what you think, that a designer’s judgement is wrong and you won’t do something, or that other models are below you. In each of these, you are telling your employer, the fashion designer, that they are wrong and you know better. When you consider that the typical designer that has experienced this has a six figure income and been a designer for over seven years, how can you say any of these things as a model? Know that your “help” or comment that you make can be very insulting to the designer. Don’t ever get a big head and be a diva or divo and tell the designer their business. As one designer said, “One model said she didn’t like this about one outfit, she wouldn’t wear this because it looks bad on her, and that the outfit needed something else in a different way. Well, we decided we didn’t like her either, and dismissed her as a model.” Remember: as a fashion model, you are there to model the clothes that the designer feels is appropriate. If an outfit shows too much for you, let them know. Everything else is their decision. This is the fashion world. Bite your tongue no matter how much it rubs you the wrong way.


Another comment is how they have dropped several “good” models from their shows because their image no longer fits their image. They had hoped that the model would come up to their standard, but instead, they didn’t improve and in some instances, did things that detracted from their being a model. I know this has impacted several organizations that give models decent contracts for being their model. Let’s start with image: this is what you represent, how you appear, and the ‘vibe’ you give off. This includes who you are when you aren’t modeling, the past and current jobs you take, how you talk informally, and what people will assume about you when they see your face. This is all image. Once a model gets “in” with a designer they want or sometimes just as a model starting out, the model will say something like “they have to accept me for who I am, and this is me.” In reality, you have to prove who you are and keep yourself clean. They don’t care where you came from or what you have done, unless you can come up to their standard and what they want you to present for them. Speech and how you talk is a big issue: imagine presenting a $12,000 outfit at a show, and then after the show while walking around potential clients you introduce someone as “This is my old man”. In the social class that buys the outfits for $12,000, they never refer to their spouse as “my old man” but rather their “husband” or “boyfriend” or “significant other”. By saying this, you have just lowered the perceived value of that designer’s clothing and damaged their reputation with the clients in hearing range. If you are going to work with someone who sells clothing at this level, you have to be able to speak like their clients do and come up to their social level and behavior. Other areas that this is an issue are the images and comments you post on social networks – do you have images of you taken with a camera phone in a bar while you are drunk? How about posts talking about how all these “bitches” are after your “old man” or something similar. These all fit into this catagory. Another reputation killer is modeling in lingerie and doing nudes. In the fashion world, your face and form define what a designer wants you to be for them. When you show their clothes off, they often don’t want people thinking “nude” women or boudior images associating with your reputation as a someone who wears almost nothing. They want the clients looking at the outfits they are selling. Again, this type of reputation devaluates their name and brand, and lowers the worth of their clothing (not to mention is a big distraction to their clients). While this may be alright for some designers, many designers frown upon these types of images. Two designers this week refered to this as “nude of the month syndrome” and have said to me that they recognize that models see the quick money they can get from this type of modeling, but when they do this type of modeling, the model is only a flash in the pan. Why? Because, once you cross that line, you can’t take it back and undo it. The pictures will always be out there. Keep in mind this is in the “fashion” world where “perceived image” and “perceived reputation” is everything. The people who paid you to do the lingerie or nude images will only pay you long enough to get what they want for images, and will tire of you. It isn’t in the nude photographer’s best interest to keep working with the same nude model over and over unless there is demand for your images. Besides, there is always another model who will have their interest, just as you captured their interest. Once they have a few sets of you (or even while they are shooting these sets of you), they are off to the next model and the cycle continues with someone else. I am not saying you can’t make a good living as a nude model or that I am against people being nude models – I am saying that organizations and designers in fashion who do pay good money for their models have an image to protect. Doing nudes or lingerie images is a good way to eliminate your consideration or continued work with these people who do pay in the fashion industry. Yes, there are models who are in major fashion magazines who do nudes and continue to work as models, but they are the exception and not the rule. They work for people and organizations who don’t mind this reputation or who want to play off of this “appearance” for their brand. Know who your clients (designers) as a model.

I want to emphasize this: image and reputation is everything in the fashion world!

From this, I hope that I have covered what is meant about “image” and “reputation” in the fashion world. Don’t get somewhere you want to be or just close enough to almost be there, then destroy your chances of staying there by insulting the designer, or by presenting the wrong image or reputation for them. Stay vigilant and work to maintain that stellar reputation that you have. Work to constantly improve your model skills. Don’t be a diva or divo and think you know more or better than the designer for whom you work. Know what the line is that the organization or designer has for their reputation. If you cross that line, it is almost impossible to get back to the other side.

Posted in: Modeling