Desk Mrec Top

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 Dec 05, 2018 03:44pm


“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