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When we do hard work, we expect to get paid for it: Models lash out against Pakistani fashion designers

Is non-payment a widespread problem in our fashion industry? These models think so.
Updated 05 Dec, 2018


“I am extremely professional and I take my career seriously. When I work hard, I expect to get paid for it,” says model Anam Malik, stating a fact that should be quite obvious.

I was talking to Anam on Tuesday, the day after she took to Facebook to allege that she and fellow model Farwa Kazmi have not been paid for a fashion shoot they did in the previous month and the designer wasn’t picking up her calls. The post set off a deluge of comments and it came to light that Anam was complaining about popular designer Tena Durrani.

Anam continues, “When I put up this post on Facebook, some of my friends from the industry – stylists, photographers – called me and said that I shouldn’t have done so, that I would lose work because I had openly spoken against a designer. They said that others would be too afraid to work with me. But I am tired of models, including myself, being taken for granted. This has to stop.”

Talking further about the shoot with the pending payment, Anam said, “I had never before taken to Facebook to place allegations. But I worked hard. It was a bridal shoot and both Farwa and I wore eight to 10 outfits each. They could have told me that the payment would take time and it would have been all right. But when the brand utilised the shoot and Tena and her team still refused to acknowledge my phone calls, I felt very disrespected.”

On the very day that she posted, Anam managed to get in touch with Taimur Shah, CEO of Tena Durrani, and her payments are now being transferred to her in installments.

According to Anam, “The problem is that almost all designers have this attitude towards models. The upper tier designers act like they are doing us a favor when they offer us a job. They expect us to be so dazzled by the prospect of working with them that we agree to work for free or little money.”

Farwa Kazmi, who worked with Anam in the shoot, recounts the same experience but has many more horror stories to share. “There are designers who are friendly with us and then try to utilise this friendship by asking us to do free shoots for them. There was this one time when I refused to work for free for a designer and he went about badmouthing me extensively to the entire fraternity. Recently, I finally succumbed, and modeled for him for free.”

Model Zara Peerzada said, “Most established designers simply don’t expect to be asked for payment. They consider it a favour and an honour for us. But I have invested many years into my career and even if it’s a token amount paid to me by a friend, I feel that I deserve to get it. It’s a sign of respect for my work.”


"Upper tier designers act like they are doing us a favor when they offer us a job. They expect us to be so dazzled by the prospect of working with them that we agree to work for free or little money,” says Anam Malik


Farwa also recounted another bad experience with a designer who was supposedly a ‘friend’. “Just because we move in the same crowd, hang out and go to the same parties doesn’t mean that I should be expected to work for free. Work and friendship need to be kept separate."

"A very new designer recently asked me and a few other models to work for him. The shoot was supposed to take place up in the mountains and I was scheduled to arrive late because I had been busy with fashion week. On reaching my home in Lahore, I realised that they hadn’t arranged for transport to take me from Lahore to Islamabad, from where I would be catching my flight. I managed this on my own. Then, on landing at the destination, I was expected to take a taxi to the hotel. Moreover, no room had been booked for me at the hotel and I had to arrange it – and pay for it – myself. This treatment wasn’t even meted out to just me. There were other models in our group that had also had to do the same,” she says.

“On returning home, I harangued the designer’s accountant until he paid for the expenses that I had shouldered. He jibed at me that I had really done my paperwork with regards to expenditures and I retaliated that why shouldn’t I have done so? And why should I ask them for something that they should have had paid for anyway?”

Farwa’s reminiscing continues: “Another time, this very well-known designer owed me money but when I started asking for it, she told me that she needed time. Then, she proceeded to block my number entirely. I tried constantly to get through to her and finally, I spoke to my husband who is a lawyer. He sent this designer a message saying that if she did not pay, we would have no option but to take legal action. Instantly, this designer contacted me, very sweetly apologised for having had been busy and paid my fee.”


"Designers don’t hide the fact that they live lavish lifestyles and make us pose with their designer bags and shoes in their shoots. But when it comes to paying the model, they make things difficult,” says Zara Peerzada.


Coming back to the current situation at hand, Farwa says, “This problem exists in the industry throughout, not just in Tena’s case. No one really speaks out about it because it is just accepted as the norm. Since almost all the designers are like this, none of them are going to come to our defense. I learnt the ropes with Athar Shahzad and when I started out, Shahzad warned me that I would be earning from textile-based shoots and shows but not really from fashion shoots. “Even we don’t get paid for those,” he had told me. But if I work hard, why shouldn’t I be paid for it?”

Farwa’s words ring true primarily because Pakistani fashion has long passed its fledgling phase. There are ateliers hauling in big business, opening flagship stores and declaring themselves to be ‘all sold out’. There may have been a time when a young, minuscule fashion fraternity may have leaned upon each other for free favours but investors, big money and a burgeoning fashion-savvy clientele have stepped up the game. If a model works hard, she should be paid. Ditto for stylists, photographers, et al.

“Designers go all out to make their campaigns look good. They don’t hide the fact that they live lavish lifestyles and make us pose with their designer bags and shoes in their shoots. But when it comes to paying the model, they make things difficult,” says Zara. “We have all been working in the industry for a long time and there are clients who have paid us within a week and others, within six months. We are used to payments getting delayed. The only time when we freak out and feel insulted is when a client is rude to us or refuses to pick up our phone calls. We start getting frantic because we feel that we may not get paid at all.”

A lack of unity

The problem, however, doesn’t just lie with the designers that don’t pay. It also lies with the models. “There is a lack of unity amongst us,” says Farwa. “If I refuse to work with a brand on ethical grounds, there will always be plenty of other girls around, ready to grab on to the opportunity and work for little or no money.”

“I was once part of a group shoot where we were told that we would have to work for one hour and ended up spending the whole day at the location,” she continues. “Obviously, this meant that we would also be paid for just an hour’s work. I made a fuss and walked out, telling them that I refused to be part of the shoot and I told the other girls that they should also do the same. But they just looked at me blankly. They continue to work with this brand while I don’t.”

Zara Peerzada and Mushk Kaleem agree that models must speak up for their rights — Photos by Muzi Sufi & 9Lines
Zara Peerzada and Mushk Kaleem agree that models must speak up for their rights — Photos by Muzi Sufi & 9Lines

Another model, Mushk Kaleem, says, “I only started modeling last year and I am often told not to speak out. It doesn’t make sense. I worked for Tena last year as well and I felt that there was some sort of miscommunication. Models charge different rates for different shoots, depending on whether it’s a bridalwear shoot, or one for formal-wear or lawn. With Tena, I was told that it was going to be a shoot with five outfits and agreed to the amount paid for a regular shoot. When I reached the location, it turned out to that I was going to be modeling five bridal-wear outfits. There was also a videographer there and I hadn’t been told about this. We charge separately for videos but I told them that since this boy had been hanging out since morning, waiting for me, I would do the video anyway. Following the shoot, I started following up on my payment immediately and I got paid in about a month.”


"The sad thing is, we don’t respect ourselves. There are many girls who would be willing to bear with this treatment, go without pay, food or water just in order to get into fashion’s inner circle. I wish that there was some unity amongst us so that we could stand up for our rights,” says Mushk.


“There is an utter lack of respect for the work that we do,” says Mushk. “It’s hard work. Sometimes, you have to wear a bridal outfit for hours in the summer heat. You get scratches on your hands and you’re wearing all this jewelry. You do the shoot because it’s something that you’re good at, it’s your chosen career and also because it pays your bills. But a lot of times, models aren’t even offered water or food.”

“The sad thing is, we don’t respect ourselves. There are many girls who would be willing to bear with this treatment, go without pay, food or water just in order to get into fashion’s inner circle. I wish that there was some unity amongst us so that we could stand up for our rights,” says Mushk.


Farwa reveals, “All our payments are decided via text messages. There is no legal contract or emails. It is quite easy to swindle a model. And if tomorrow I insist on a written contract no one will want to work with me saying that I am too disciplined.”


Farwa reveals, “All our payments are decided via text messages. There is no legal contract or emails. It is quite easy to swindle a model. And if tomorrow I insist on a written contract no one will want to work with me saying that I am too disciplined.”

Zara adds to this, “You’re perceived as a headache as soon as you start introducing some sort of standardisation, for instance, asking for fixed pay for different kinds of advertisements. There are so many different kinds of campaigns these days: TVCs, digital shoots, shoots for magazines, videos, outdoor campaigns. But if you set different charges for them, you’re less likely to get hired. Brands will just opt for a model who is more compliant. They are spending so much on the set-up, the videographer, the styling. Why can’t they pay their talent accordingly?”

The other side

On the other hand, the management at Tena Durrani say that they have just been following their normal payment cycle.

“Whenever we hire someone we try to get the payments out as soon as possible,” says the brand’s CEO Taimur Shah. “Sometimes it takes a day, sometimes a week, sometimes longer. This is something that we clarify to them. There are also times when models say that they want an advance because they need to make payments of their own. We accommodate their requests whenever we can. The two models who recently complained about non-payment were perhaps contacting other people within the organisation and some sort of miscommunication took place. I only spoke to Anam two days ago and told her that we would be forwarding the cheques. This was on the day of her Facebook post but before she had posted. I am not stealing anyone’s money and they have no right being rude to me.”


"The two models who recently complained about non-payment were perhaps contacting other people within the organisation and some sort of miscommunication took place," says Tena Durrani CEO Taimur Shah


“Maybe these models have had bad experiences with other people in the industry and it made them assume that we wouldn’t pay,” he says. “But we always pay. Even if there are delays that may occur due to internal financial problems, we will inevitably pay. There are many others in the fashion industry who don’t pay models at all regardless of how experienced or hardworking they are.”

"I even make payments when I don’t have invoices with me just in order to speed things up. It’s easy to make declarations on social media. There have been times when a model has cancelled on me on the day of her shoot, costing me losses of millions of rupees. I can take to the Internet too and create havoc. But I don’t.”

Regardless, Anam Malik’s Facebook post may hopefully create more awareness and start off a minor revolution. Models – the new as well as the veterans with longstanding ‘friendships’ with designers – need to stand up for their rights in order to get treated better and be paid for the time and effort that they invest into their work. Designers need to give more respect to the many women – and men – that are the veritable faces of their brands. Profits need to be earned not just by the designers but also by the many cogwheels that are so imperative to keep the industry moving. It’s high time.


Header photo credits: Anam Malik photo by Alee Hassan / Farwa Kazmi photo by Mehak Qureshi

Comments

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Khan Dec 05, 2018 02:02pm
Models are correct!
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hamid shafiq Dec 05, 2018 02:36pm
models should write a contract with designers before any shoot or fashion show because its Pakistan if no written work means you have nothing.
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TR Dec 05, 2018 03:14pm
Feel sad that our designers are not paying the models for their work. Designers please fulfill your obligations and pay on time. I hope our lawyers can provide some legal advise for this situation.
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Amer Rao Dec 05, 2018 05:21pm
Nice article and my sympathies are with the models. I think nobody spoke before, about these serious work ethics. I am confident now, the designers will change their behaviour. If I am not wrong, models should go to big advertising agencies nor go directly to designers. After reading this article, i felt models were involved directly to the clients. Which is not good for them. In the develop countries professionals follow their job related associations or unions. They pay annually to maintain their memberships. And these unions arrange get together events for more awareness and protect members under labour rules.
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Altaf Noor Ali Dec 05, 2018 07:06pm
The CEO of Tena Durrani is trying to gloss over the episode. What the model has said is correct. Once the shoot is finished, its like who are you? They make you rub your nose to the ground before they pay. Unfortunately this is not the case with models only, its true for almost every service provider. Delayed payments or preferably no payments is rampant. You have to go out with a lamp in the sun to search for payers who honour their words. I am personally never buying this brand again!
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N_saq Dec 05, 2018 08:05pm
What about the labor laws? How come these models are working with no pay? Strengthened laws and form unions and everything will fall in its rightful place. This is Fedual mentality where the rich takes advantage of its workers i.e. treat the workers like slaves and when someone dare ask for payment beat them up i.e. the payment is at the discretion of the employer instead of pre-arranged agreement. In order to establish equitable distribution of wealth, Pak needs to set a wage rate and no one should be allowed to pay their workers below the wage rate. Also, for freelance workers the govt should provide a hourly wage report where workers can log their hours, which are then signed by the employers, however, the hourly wage report should be maintained by the workers and nor the employers and if any employer refuse to sign the hourly wage rate then the worker should be able to approach the courts for remedy.
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N abidai Dec 05, 2018 08:14pm
Not surprising , fashion designers , producers, all wants to make 1000% profits! They only wants to invest 1% to pay the models and artists! Pakistani designers and producers are a greedy lot! However ,they would pay for BW artists ,to model and act the big bucks! Respect your models and artists, look at their fan following , they are respresenting Pakistan!
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Khan Dec 05, 2018 09:04pm
Models are also daughters or wifes or sisters or mothers who support families.they must be paid same day handsomely.
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ravi Dec 05, 2018 09:29pm
Models union - common contract. Also name and shame the designer.
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HD Dec 05, 2018 09:30pm
The models are right! I have worked in Pakistan and i exactly what the culture is the problems is there is no professionalism at all we all think we can speak English and have become a decent designer, or CEO or a class one brand the world will operate in our way. These models should form a Union, should have Agency to book their work and have lawyers on speed dial. Rember whats written (contract) can stand in court as proof. All other ways whats app or texts are not legal on binding so want to be professional welcome to the modern age and stop abusing people
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Idea guy Dec 05, 2018 09:48pm
Think about getting an agent who gets paid on your behalf at market rates and is responsible for arrangements and contracts... Like football or basketball players. Tell the designers to contact your agent, because you have a contract with him/her that all work and shoots need to go through him/her... It's contractual and you have no choice....
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Waheed Noor Dec 06, 2018 12:40am
Designers do all the brain work and models do all the physical work. This is a brain vs body question and throughout history no one was able to satisfactorily answer which is suprerior .
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Javed Qamer Engineer Washington DC Dec 06, 2018 01:40am
I feel sorry for the models. They are hired by the modeling agency who does not pay them. They conveniently do not return their calls. Its a shame that there are people like that. Hey dead beats pay the models. They are doing work and need to be paid. They have bills to pay and in some cases take care of their kids.
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ANONYMOUS Dec 06, 2018 04:10am
This is common in every industry. The person in authority always tries to fleece the one in need. Every year hundreds of interns work at big corporation for free just for mere experience. This practice is wrong and legal action must be taken.
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Rehan M Dec 06, 2018 05:32am
The entire industry should have some standardization... otherwise the weakest links will be exploited and taken advantage of. On the other hand, new models are also desperate ... really desperate ... to get SOME work so they can get some experience and a portfolio.
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Tamza Dec 06, 2018 09:38am
Designers who are ‘friends’ and expect free model time, should then provide free clothes. BARTER - if the model accepts. This is an opportunity for model agency - ALL work booked through agency; agency gets a fixed retainer per month or year, or a commission !!
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Syed irfan ali Dec 06, 2018 10:03am
Sad to know about exploitation in our Fashion Industry. It's unethical not to pay or pay after a long time to models who have done their bit in their fashion shoots.
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Be honest Dec 08, 2018 07:29am
I truly stand by models. Every contract should be in black and white before shoot starts. Government should look into this matter and should urge the parties to follow set norms or face legal actions.
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