Guide to Producing A Fashion Show Cover Image

Guide to Producing A Fashion Show


3rd Edition

Judith C. Everett and Kristen K. Swanson

Fairchild Books Library

Table of contents

The Catwalk

Book chapter

DOI: 10.5040/
Pages: 168–211

Jason Wu, Spring 2011. Courtesy of WWD/Thomas Iannoccone

Each season, the fashion press watches the international shows to see who will be the “new face” of the season. The print edition of reports the top 10 models who worked the international fashion circuit each season (“The Top 10 Models,” 2012). Visitors at the website were asked to vote for their favorite models. The model selected as the top one for the season was Chinese-born Liu Wen (Fig. 6.1), who walked in 50 shows, including Dolce & Gabbana, Balmain, and Stella McCartney, in addition to being a model for Estee Lauder cosmetics. Other top models of the season included Russian-born, German-raised Kati Nescher; Dutch Elza Luijendijk, American Ava Smith, French Aymeline Valade, and American Karlie Kloss. The top models from this season came from all corners of the world. Will any of these girls be the next Karolina Kurkova, Natalia Vodianova, or Coco Rocha? Bazaar before walking the runways of Paris, Milan, and New York.

Figure 6.1

Beijing model Liu Wen first gained attention for her print work in the Chinese editions of Vogue and Harper’s

In this chapter, we discuss the role of the fashion model, including the different model categories, various career opportunities, model resources, training, responsibilities, and the reputation of models and the modeling industry. We also report on the role beauty plays to create a specific look on the runway. Hair and makeup professionals are given the responsibility to create and to present an image that supports the designer’s clothing on the catwalk. Finally, we look at the role of choreography as it contributes to the overall impact on the catwalk.

Fashion Models

The individuals engaged to wear the apparel and accessories for fashion shows, advertisements, or magazine covers or editorials are known as models (mannequins). They must be able to effectively promote the image of the clothing to the audience in a believable manner and are very important to the image and success of the fashion show. Models may also infer a standard of excellence, something or someone to be emulated. Many people are inspired to wear and accessorize their clothing in a certain manner after watching and imitating fashion models. To other people, models are exploited as too young, too thin, and a symbol of an unhealthy lifestyle.

The lure of money, a glamorous image, and the ability to wear the latest designer fashions has drawn thousands and thousands of young people from around the world to try modeling as a career. Becoming a fashion model is looked upon as an alluring and celebrated career for young women. Although the possibility of becoming a supermodel—making huge salaries similar to Gisele Bündchen (Fig. 6.2), Kate Moss, Alessandra Ambrosio, or Miranda Kerr—is slim, the industry attracts countless young women (and men) who want to be the next well-known model.

Figure 6.2

Brazilian super-model Gisele Bündchen is one of the richest models in the world.

Models should be attractive, not necessarily beautiful. The audience should be able to enjoy the model’s appearance, but the model’s looks should not deter from the merchandise being presented. A flair for fashion, as well as an instinct about how clothing and accessories should be worn, is helpful. Models are often asked to exercise their fashion sense and enthusiasm in showing clothing to its best.

A model should be well groomed with good hair and skin. The model’s figure should be well proportioned and as close to sample sizes as possible, because alterations are expensive and time consuming.

All models, amateur or professional, should project a professional attitude. A professional attitude involves being cooperative with the fashion show staff and other models. Although some models have the reputation for being difficult to work with, moodiness and self-indulgence have no place behind the hectic scene of the fashion show.

The backstage pace at a fashion show is chaotic, as shown in Figure 6.3. When the model rushes to change clothes, she jumps out of one outfit and quickly puts on another with her dresser’s assistance. Despite the tension of getting into and out of outfits, the model must be able to promptly gain composure before walking out on the runway. The model must also be able to keep her poise when mistakes or unexpected events happen. An accessory might be forgotten, a zipper might break, or a shoe strap could slip off—the model must be able to gracefully cover up such incidents.

Figure 6.3

This model hurries to get ready to walk the runway.

Demanding schedules prevail during market weeks, when a model may do as many as four or five strenuous shows in 1 day. The model must maintain a fresh, enthusiastic, and energetic attitude throughout each show. With experience, professional models develop an intuition and sense of what to do in any circumstance.

Models do not have to like the particular garments they are wearing. They should respect the clothes and be able to communicate the appreciation of the look or theme of the garments to the audience.

Model Classifications

According to Ashley Mears (2011), female models, called girls, are classified as working in either commercial or editorial fields. The commercial side of the fashion industry is concerned with short-term economic profits. Commercial models work in the mass-market or for-profit side of the fashion business. The typical jobs for a commercial model involve posing for catalogues, showing clothing in vendors’ showrooms for retail clients during market weeks, doing fittings for manufacturers, or posing for television commercials and print advertisements for a wide range of goods, from clothing companies or electronics manufacturers to beauty products. Although commercial modeling is not considered as prestigious, earnings for commercial models are consistent and relatively high. Commercial models have a classic, safe, thin, and youthful appearance.

Editorial models work the runways during international fashion week shows held in the major fashion capitals of the world and pose for editorial sections of high fashion magazines. They also pose for advertisements for prestige and luxury brands. Participants in the editorial side of the fashion field are in fashion for fashion’s sake. Editorial producers are interested in making art, rejecting the pursuit of money, chasing after prestige instead (Mears, 2011). Paradoxically, participants are willing to lose money in order to gain social esteem. People working in editorial fashion may—or may not—make huge financial gains. It is part of the risk that these producers are willing to take. Although status is high for editorial models, earnings are sporadic and low. The image for these models is typically edgy, strange, skinny, and teenage. The audience for editorial models tends to be fashion insiders with interest in being fashion forward by predicting fashion trends, influencing the mass market, and defining brand credibility.

There are physical differences between commercial and editorial models, as seen in Figure 6.4. Commercial models are generally older and larger—still thin, but bigger than their editorial counterparts. Commercial models wear size 2 to size 6, whereas editorial girls range from size 00 to size 4. Editorial models are typically between ages 13 to 22, whereas commercial models are typically at least 18 and continue to work well into their 30s and beyond.

Figure 6.4

(a) A commercial model may be older and thin, but not as thin as an editorial model. (b) Editorial models are younger and extremely thin, with a more edgy look.

Models in the editorial group have very slim figures and are typically between 5 feet 9 inches and 6 feet in height. Ideal female models have a bust measurement of 34 inches, waist measurement of 24 inches, and hips that measure 34 inches. Although some successful editorial models do not have these exact measurements, this is the size a modeling agency and its clients are typically seeking. There are outliers who do become successful. For example, Kate Moss is only 5 foot 6 inches. However, her extraordinary look and connections in the industry have allowed her to be successful despite not fitting into the ideal size. The career span of a fashion model in the 21st century is typically 5 years (Mears, 2011). A modeling career is considered short term, more of a stint than a long-term occupation.

A rare few models have adapted to this lifestyle, and some have even continued modeling for decades. Mature models, also known as classic models, continue modeling well into their 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond. Carmen Dell’Orefice and China Machado defied the odds and continue to model in their 80s. Style icon Dell’Orefice (Fig. 6.5) started her modeling career at age 15 on the cover of Vogue magazine. Proudly displaying her signature white hair, she walked the runways for John Galliano in 2000, Hermès in 2004, and Alberta Ferretti in 2011 (Krupnick, 2011). China Machado (Fig. 6.6), another octogenarian, graced the cover of New York Magazine’s fall fashion issue (Yuan, 2011), and she was one of the models interviewed for HBO’s documentary, About Face: The Super-models, Then and Now (Greenfield-Sanders, 2012). Ms. Machado started her career after leaving the ruins of Shanghai at the end of World War II (Yuan, 2011). She began her modeling career as a house model for Givenchy, and she eventually became the highest paid runway model of her era—earning $1,000 per day in Paris. During a trip to New York she was discovered by photographer Richard Avedon and Ms. Machado became the first non-Caucasian model on the cover of a fashion magazine.

Figure 6.5

Carmen Dell’Orefice started her modeling career at the age of 15 and continues modeling in her 80s.

Figure 6.6

Model China Machado. China, (pronounced “chenna”), spent three years as a house model for Givenchy before becoming the highest-paid freelance model in Europe during the middle of the twentieth century.

Jada Yuan (2012, ¶ 1) asked the question, “Is there life after modeling?” Even 20-something models look to their future, wondering what to do when their modeling career ends. Several options were identified, including the following:

  • acting—Milla Jovovich, Amber Valetta, Charlize Theron, Cameron Diaz

  • working at a fashion magazine—China Machado, Grace Coddington

  • playing music—Karen Elson, Irina Lazareanu

  • becoming a photographer—Helena Christensen

  • starting a beauty line—Miranda Kerr

  • starting a yoga line—Christy Turlington

  • starting a clothing line—Kate Moss, Erin Wasson

  • starting a furniture line—Cindy Crawford

  • becoming the first lady of France—Carla Bruni

  • becoming part of a reality television show—Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum, and Carolyn Murphy

Perhaps the wealthiest American fashion model is Kathy Ireland, who started her career in the 1980s as a high school student (Brown, 2012), Discovered by Elite Model Management, she was on the covers of such magazines as Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and Women’s Fitness before becoming the cover girl for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue for 13 straight years. Today, her company, Kathy Ireland Worldwide (KIWW), is a $2 billion brand with her name attached to more than 15,000 stock-keeping units, ranging from furniture, lighting, flooring, windows, jewelry, bridal gowns, to lingerie, with roughly 30 licensees, carried in more than 50,000 stores—all with the promise of simplifying women’s lives. In addition to her commercial work, Kathy Ireland is involved in many charitable causes.

Although modeling has been dominated by young, tall, and thin women, the increased awareness of special sizes provides career opportunities for petite as well as plus size models. Petite models are generally between 5 feet 2 inches and 5 feet 7 inches tall. Many designers offer clothing in petite sizes; therefore, most petite models work for specialty fashion shows featuring petite sizes or as photographic models for the beauty industry.

Plus size models, also known as 10/20 models, typically wear from a size 10 to 20 plus. Larger women with perfect skin, even features, and long legs and who are able to move well in front of a camera or down a runway are finding work in this market (see Color Plate 12). Most plus size models are 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 11 inches tall, with bust measurements between 36 inches and 42 inches, waist measurements between 26 inches and 32 inches, hip measurements between 36 inches and 45 inches, and weight between 140 and 170 pounds. Full-figure model Tara Lynn was featured on a cover of French Elle magazine and New York-based Wilhelmina model Robyn Lawley (Fig. 6.7) was the first plus size model on the cover of Australian Vogue (“MemoPad,” 2012). Although this category of model is becoming better known, it is still difficult for full-figure models to find work walking the runways.

Figure 6.7

Plus size model Robyn Lawley was featured on the cover of Australian Vogue and became the first plus size model for Ralph Lauren.

Child models are needed to display merchandise for the baby, toddler, children’s, boys, girls, and preteen markets. In addition, they are prominently featured during the back-to-school season. Although younger children are used in photographic modeling, professional child runway models generally start training from the ages of 5 to 10. Younger girls and boys wear sizes 4 to 6X, and they wear larger children’s and preteen sizes as they get older.

It is not surprising that child models are picked from the offspring of well-known models. Ten-year-old Kaia Gerber, daughter of supermodel Cindy Crawford and her husband Rande Gerber—also a former model—was the face of a Versace children’s advertising campaign (Torrisi & Fisher, 2012). Kaia’s photos looked so similar to her mother’s early photographs that criticism followed the distribution of the images. This led Cindy Crawford to bring her daughter’s modeling career to a halt until Kaia is at least 17 years old. Meanwhile, Natalia Vodianova’s 6-year-old daughter, Neva Vodianova Portman, made her modeling debut wearing a red dress by Caramel Baby and Child, a British children’s label (Bergin, 2012). When Karl Lagerfeld wanted a child model for his Chanel fashion show, he called Brad Kroenig, one of his male models, to ask if his son would be able to walk in the show (Wilson, 2012a). At the age of 3, Hudson Kroenig (Fig. 6.8) was already a veteran of his second Chanel fashion show.

Figure 6.8

Young Hudson Kroenig started his modeling career walking the Chanel runway.

Children are great audience pleasers during fashion shows, often earning the greatest audience recognition. But caution must be used to avoid unpleasant scenes with children. It can be very difficult to work with children under the age of 5. Young children may appear able to handle modeling during rehearsals, but they can become frightened when they see a large number of strangers staring at them on the runway. Small children may cry or act out when frightened on stage.

If the show planners decide to use children in the show, the following suggestions may help avoid unpleasant situations. Try to identify children who act somewhat mature, even if they do not understand the idea of a fashion show. It may be helpful to show them videos of other fashion shows in order to teach them what it is all about. These children should be told that an unknown person will help them change clothes and give them stage directions. Introducing them to their dresser before the rehearsal will help overcome their and their parents’ fears. It will also be helpful to have child models practice on the runway in front of an audience made up of show staff and family members to help them feel more at ease in front of a crowd. Mothers or other adults supervising the children should understand the responsibilities of models. A member of the fashion show production staff or parent must be able to watch over the children during all rehearsals and the show.

Although females are dominant in the modeling industry, many men find careers as male models. Male models also fit into the editorial and commercial categories, just as their female counterparts. According to Mears (2011), editorial boys are young, ages 16 to their mid-20s, and tend to be slim, with 28-inch waists and 36-inch chests. Male models (Fig. 6.9) work the runways in Milan, Paris, New York, and London, just as their female counterparts do. Alternatively, commercial boys—and men—have 32-inch waists and 40-inch chests. These commercial men tend to be older, ranging from 18 years of age to 50 or older.

Figure 6.9

Although male models work the international runways, they don’t get the respect, attention, approval, and magazine covers that their female counterparts get.

Career Opportunities for Models

Now that we have considered the categories of models, we turn our attention to the various places where models find jobs. Career opportunities are the greatest in large cities with strong fashion design and retail industries such as New York, London, Paris, and Milan. Modeling work in other cities, such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, Chicago, or Toronto, may only be part-time, because the demand for models is not as great. Modeling jobs generally fit into three categories: fashion shows, photo shoots, and fit modeling.

Runway Models

Runway models find jobs during the various fashion weeks at major fashion centers and trade shows around the world. Runway models experience the energy and excitement of a live performance, connecting with the audience and photographers to promote the clothes they are wearing. Models who work the big international fashion shows have style, poise, and confidence to present clothes on the runway. They expect to see their photographs and videos of the runway shows in major newspapers, magazines, television broadcasts, and social media around the world.

Models for Photo Shoots

There are three types of photographic opportunities for fashion models: photo shoots for magazine editorial content, print advertisements, and catalogues. Every up-and-coming model hopes to have her picture in the editorial pages of Vogue, W, Harper’s Bazaar, or Elle. Although these editorial print modeling jobs do not pay the highest fees, they are considered to be stepping-stones to building a portfolio and other more lucrative, brand-oriented modeling jobs. Models use tear sheets from magazine editorials, which involve non-advertising magazine pages, to find jobs or contracts for major advertising campaigns.

Editorial print modeling involves a cooperative interaction between the model, magazine editor or creative director, photographer, and staff, which consists of a photographer’s assistant, stylist, hair stylist, and makeup artist, to find a creative image. Many images are shot to find just the right photograph to capture the look and attract the audience’s attention. Once a model has gained some recognition through editorial print work, she may be asked to model for fragrance, cosmetic, or fashion houses for their advertisements.

The purpose of advertising is to promote and sell clothing, fragrances, or other merchandise from the sponsor. Advertising models are needed to display and enhance these products for publication in newspapers, magazines, point-of-purchase displays, and digital as well as other media. Depending upon the clothing or cosmetic line, fashion shots for advertisements may be done in either editorial or catalogue style. Advertising modeling fees are among the highest in the modeling industry. An exclusive or contract model can receive several million dollars for his or her work, which excludes the model from working for the competition.

Men and women with attractive hands, legs, feet, and/or hair may find jobs as body parts models. This type of modeling is a sub-industry within the modeling industry. Hand models are used for hand lotion, nail polish, or jewelry. Hosiery, shoes, and grooming products are shown on models with eye-catching legs. Some celebrities use body part models as doubles for dangerous or revealing scenes in movies. Ashly Covington is a full-time parts model, earning as much as $1,200 a day (Hare, 2009). Danielle Korwin is the president of Parts Models Agency, an agency in New York that specializes in body parts. She reports that only people with exceptional, veinless, poreless, and flawless hands need apply to her agency. The agency was founded in 1986 to provide hand, leg, feet, and body models for editorial, advertising, and catalogue work (“About Us,” 2006).

Because models are confident and composed when photographers take their picture, many models make the transition from fashion modeling into television commercial acting. After taking classes in acting and script reading, many models learn how to sound natural for commercials. A great deal of money can be earned from television commercials, especially when the advertisements are nationally distributed. Thousands of dollars in residuals, money paid each time the advertisement is broadcast, are paid to the principal performers featured in commercials. If a model has several commercials running at any given time, his or her income can increase.

Catalogue models are photographed wearing clothing and accessories that will be sold through direct response media such as mail-order catalogues, brochures, and billing statement inserts, and on Internet-based catalogues. It is considered the bread-and-butter job for many models. Catalogue bookings may be for a 1-hour shoot or several days in an exotic location. This type of modeling requires realistic models who resemble the target audience. Catalogue photographs are generally straightforward shots that emphasize the selling features of the garments. Nordstrom gained positive recognition for placing people with disabilities in their wheelchairs as photographic models for some of their catalogues (Fig. 6.10).

Figure 6.10

Commercial models find consistent and well-paid work in catalogues such as this J. Crew catalogue.

Fit and Showroom Models

A designer or manufacturer employs a model, with a particular attitude and specific body measurements that meet a manufacturer’s ideal standard size, as a fit model (house model). Sample garments from the manufacturer’s line are adjusted on the fit model. Designers also use their fit models for design inspiration. Designers may use their fit model, a friend, or a celebrity as a muse, or an inspiration for their ideal customer. Audrey Hepburn served as the inspiration for Givenchy, whereas Yves Saint Laurent used Loulou de la Falaise as his muse for his couture collections for many years.

A showroom model works freelance or as a manufacturer’s house model during market weeks. Models wear sample garments at a designer’s showroom for a private audience of retail buyers who are evaluating garments for their target customers. The retail buyers are interested in seeing how the garments look on a real person. Because the showroom model wears the season’s sample garments, he or she must fit into the company’s standard sample size. These models may work for a few days or a few weeks each season.

As we have learned, there are many different career opportunities for models. From informal modeling for a local retailer to walking the international catwalks as supermodels, a variety of modeling jobs are available. We now turn our attention to the resources that help train, build portfolios, and find jobs for models.

Modeling Agencies

As we learned in Chapter 1, modeling agencies began in the 1920s with pioneer John Robert Powers. Since then, a number of highly regarded agencies, as well as several disreputable ones, have come on the scene. Modeling agencies are companies that represent a variety of fashion models and act as scheduling agents for them. Today, many modeling agencies also have a talent division, which is involved with representing actors and performers. Many modeling agencies are structured like FORD/Robert Black. Sheree Hartwell, owner of FORD/Robert Black Agency in Phoenix, Arizona, gives us a look into how model agencies work in Notes from the Runway: Inside a Modeling Agency.

After models are invited to sign with the agency, that agency becomes the model’s mother agency, which is typically the model’s home agency. This agency cares for its models as a mother would, getting the model prepared to work with advice about hair and makeup and test photographs, and developing a portfolio. Once the model is ready, the mother agency helps to place the model in other markets for work opportunities, choosing the best agencies to work with in different cities. New models are placed into the New Faces division. Other divisions in the agency typically include Scouts, Women’s Agents and Men’s Agents, and the Art Department. The women’s and men’s divisions are managed by their own set of bookers (agents), who are the individuals hired by the agency to promote, coordinate schedules, and negotiate fees for the models.

Many young women and men contact modeling agencies for possible representation. Another way for an aspiring model to get recognized is to attend an open call, which is held by agencies looking for new faces. Scouts, representing the agency, are out in public areas (e.g., shopping districts, school events, sports venues) looking for potential models. If the modeling agency representative chooses a model, he or she will be given a trial period on the test board. Each new model will participate in tests, go-sees, castings, and bookings. Model scouts are searching for new faces that fit into specific guidelines, discussed earlier in this chapter.

Another thing that scouts are searching for is a girl or boy with a look. Although it is hard to define, Ashley Mears says that “a look is a reference point, a theme, a feeling, an era, or even an ‘essence’” (2011, p. 6). It is much more than being attractive or sexy. A look is a whole package of a model’s being, including his or her personality, reputation, on-the-job performance, how they photograph, and their appearance. The model’s look is not the same thing as beauty, and models fitting into the editorial category are often referred to as “edgy.”

When a client—a designer, department store, or photographer—needs to hire a model, the client will let an agency announce the availability and schedule a go-see, which is when models are invited to meet the client. A casting call is an appointment to meet with a client for an upcoming job. If the client wants to see a variety of possible looks, any available models are invited to a cattle call. If the client asks for a specific model, the go-see or casting is called a request. At a go-see, casting, or request the client will greet the model one on one or in a group setting.

Models present their book to the potential client. The book is a portfolio containing test photographs that show the model in the most flattering way, along with tear sheets from previous jobs. Tests are a variety of photographic shots that show the model’s versatility and are put in a model’s portfolio. Tear sheets from editorial work are added to the portfolio as the model gains experience.

The agency will also suggest creating a composite (comp), which includes the model’s name, stats, and agency contact information with various photographs (Fig. 6.11). The model’s stats include height, weight, suit or dress size, measurements—bust, waist, hips for women; waist, shirt, and inseam for men—shoe size, and hair and eye color. Composites are valuable promotional tools that are sent to prospective clients in order to find jobs. Some agencies combine the composites from several new models into a book, which is distributed to potential clients. Electronic promotion using the Internet is the way many agencies promote their models.

Figure 6.11a

(a–b) Information about the model, including his or her photographs, and the agency contact information are printed on comp cards, which are equivalent to a model’s business card.

After the casting or go-see, a client selects the top models and invites them to return for a callback (fit-to-confirm), or a second look. If the client is interested, the client may take the model’s picture with a digital camera. For runway bookings, the model will try on several of the client’s looks and will be asked to walk in the showroom. The model leaves a comp card with the potential client and offers thanks for being invited. This is generally a quick and informal meeting.

If the client wants to hire the model for the job, he calls the model’s booker. The booker places the model on an option (hold), which is an agreement between the client and booker that reserves the model’s availability. This hold is ranked by the client’s order of preference, from first choice to third choice. In the modeling industry, the client may place a hold on a model’s time for 24 to 48 hours. Options do not have a fee and are offered as a professional courtesy to the clients. It helps the booker to manage their models’ chaotic schedules, especially during fashion week. The job for a runway show or a photo shoot is known as a booking.

Although most agencies are legitimate, professional, and have the best interest in promoting careers of young and aspiring models, some agencies have the reputation for unethical practices. Agents from dis-reputable agencies have asked new models for large sums of money for photo sessions, composites, and other promotional tools with no intention of hiring and booking models. More information about the negative side of modeling is discussed next.

The Downside of Modeling

Although the majority of people working in fashion act professionally, modeling has had a long-term objectionable reputation. Michael Gross introduced the negative side of modeling in his groundbreaking exposé, Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women (2011). He clearly profiled the seedy side of the modeling industry. With vast sums of money at stake, disreputable people have entered the industry. Some agency owners and photographers were exposed for allegedly having sex with underage girls. Rumors of drugging and raping young models were brought out into the open. Some lucky models are never exposed to the corruption and immoral actions by some powerful agents and photographers, but many unlucky young girls are lured by the glamorous-yet-dangerous lifestyle each year. Even today, rumors of these unsavory activities continue to persist in the modeling industry.

About Face: The Supermodels, Then and Now is an HBO documentary film that profiled some of the all-time most celebrated models of the 20th century (Greenfield-Sanders, 2012). Some of the women recall how—in the early days—modeling was considered a small step above prostitution and certainly not viable as a career option. Bethann Hardison, one of the African-American models who participated in the Grand Divertissement à Versailles in 1973 (see Chapter 1) said that her mother assumed she was a hooker until she saw Bethann in a TV commercial.

Modeling Scams

Each year, thousands of young girls and boys are scouted for legitimate model agencies, whereas others are scammed by bogus model and talent agencies, modeling schools, or modeling contests. Many complaints are filed with appropriate state or federal consumer protection agencies, whereas other complaints are voiced on Internet web pages. If you have been scouted and find yourself in an office filled with lots of other hopeful models and actors, and the offer to join an agency turns into a high-pressure sales pitch for modeling or acting classes, or for “screen tests” or “photo shoots” that can range in price from several hundred to several thousand dollars, you have probably been scammed.

Here are some common modeling agency advertising claims that should make anyone suspicious:

  • The agency asks for a fee to represent you. Legitimate modeling agencies make money by taking a commission from its models’ work. Some justifiable expenses are incurred by the model: for example, an agency will charge for the model’s comp cards to be included in an agency look book that is sent to potential clients, as well as travel and living expenses that are prepaid by the agency.

  • You will earn a high salary. Only experienced, top models can expect to receive large salaries. The highest salaries earned by models come from contracts with international cosmetic and luxury brands.

  • You can work full- or part-time. The hours of a model are uneven and sporadic. You will not have the flexibility to choose your own hours.

  • Real people should apply to work for our agency. Some ads encourage people of all shapes, sizes, and ages to apply for commercial modeling work. But agencies are looking for models within a narrowly defined age and body type. Modeling opportunities are limited even in large cities.

  • The agency charges you money to take their classes, before you are eligible for modeling work. A genuine modeling agency may provide instruction on applying makeup or walking, but they do not charge you for the classes.

  • The agency sends you to an unprofessional photo shoot. Models need photographs for their portfolios. But they should be conducted in an ethical manner. A model should not be asked to take off clothing for a photo shoot.

  • The agency requires a particular photographer. If the modeling agency requires you to work with a particular photographer, chances are the photographer is working with the modeling agency, and they are splitting the fee.

After being scouted, the first thing you should do is ask yourself if you feel that you realistically have the potential to become a professional model, or if you think the agency is just looking for someone who can pay for classes or photographs. Are you strong enough to take all of the criticism that will be directed toward you? To protect yourself, contact other models who have recently worked for the agency and clients that have hired models from the agency. Learn what other models and clients have to say about their experiences with the agency. Also, keep copies of all important papers, such as your contract and agency literature. Be sure to get all promises made verbally in writing. You may need these if you have a dispute with the agency.

But if you feel that your agency is a sham, what should you do? If you have paid money to an agency, you should ask for a refund. If that does not work, you can contact your local consumer protection agency, your state attorney general, or the Better Business Bureau. You also may file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them.

Modeling Is a Bad Job

Ashley Mears (2011), an assistant professor of sociology at Boston University, suggested that modeling is a “bad” job. Miss Mears was a model from age 16 to 23, observing the industry as a participant. Although modeling is promoted as a high-paying job, model pay is enormously skewed. Some models earn more than $100,000 a year, whereas others are as much as $20,000 in debt. Work in fashion modeling is typically on a freelance, or per-project, basis, similar to day laborers who piece together an erratic living. Such jobs do not require educational credentials, nor do they demand significant entry-level skills. The work provides no health or retirement benefits. Although modeling is considered glamorous, models are regularly subjected to harsh and demeaning critiques from agents and clients.

Perceived high status combined with little entry criteria means that the model market attracts more people than it should, resulting in overcrowding and steep competition. As a steady stream of new faces enters into an agency, old ones are filtered out. Models can be “dropped” by their agencies with little or no warning.

Modeling is also an expensive job. Common start-up costs that require reimbursement to the agency include comp cards, airline tickets, rent to live in a models’ apartment, bike messenger services to transport books from one client to the next, and the inclusion of the model’s comp card in a “Show Package” mailed to clients in charge of fashion week castings. Typically, expenses build up until bookings surpass the expenses, so many models do not get paid for several months. That is, if the client actually pays the agency in a timely manner or at all.

Ole Schell and Sara Ziff (2010) released a documentary film titled Picture Me: A Model’s Diary. This video diary follows Ms. Ziff from the time she entered the modeling industry as an 18-year-old fresh face through the 5 years of her career until she left modeling to attend college. At first she is an enthusiastic, young innocent girl, traveling to London, Paris, and Milan, earning pay that seems almost unbelievable to her. Her enthusiasm for modeling starts to wane as she witnesses disregard for child labor laws, the lack of financial transparency, the encouragement of unhealthy eating practices, and sexual harassment in the work-place. She learned that many of the models who achieve a coveted spot walking the run-ways during New York Fashion Week are never paid at all, instead working for free or for “trade,” meaning just clothes. Many young models also become crippled by debt to agencies that charge myriad unexplained fees.

Forging a Better World for Models

As early as 2007, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) acknowledged the concerns of extremely young and exceedingly thin models walking in the New York Fashion Week runway shows (Odell, 2012). The CFDA, in partnership with the fashion industry, medical experts, nutritionists, and fitness trainers, created a health initiative to address these issues. The health initiative suggested that models provide identification to prove that they are at least 16 years old on the day of the show. It also suggests that the models should be provided a list of warning signs for eating disorders from the Harris Center for Education and Advocacy in Eating Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital. Each season the CFDA distributes this information prior to the start of fashion week. Although this is not legally binding, CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg sends members of the fashion industry and media a reminder before New York Fashion Week begins.

As a result of her experiences in the industry, Sara Ziff, with the assistance of fellow models and the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham University School of Law, established the Model Alliance in 2012 (Jothianandan, 2012). The goal of this not-for-profit organization is to give models in the United States a voice in their workplace and to organize to improve their basic working conditions in what is now an almost entirely unregulated industry. The organization provides a platform for models and leaders in the fashion industry to work together to radically improve models’ working conditions.

One of the first actions taken by the Model Alliance was to develop a “Models’ Bill of Rights” so that models have the right to work in a professional environment, have transparent accounting procedures, control their careers, have negotiable commissions, and for models under the age of 18 to have specific rights that address age-appropriate activities as well as educational opportunities (“The Model Alliance,” 2012). The draft of the Models’ Bill of Rights (Fig. 6.12) was introduced February 6, 2012, with the intent of being a living document that may be revised periodically.

Figure 6.12

This is a draft of the Models’ Bill of Rights established by the Model Alliance.

To help and protect models, Model Alliance Support is the organization’s fully confidential grievance reporting system, offered in conjunction with the Actors’ Equity Association and the American Guild of Musical Artists. Equity, in partnership with the Guild, advises the Model Alliance and enables Alliance members to report and seek assistance with complaints about inappropriate on-the-job conduct. This is a first step in providing a safe working environment by giving models a place where they can report safely, privately, and confidentially, or request assistance with instances of harassment, abuse, assault, rape, or any unwanted or inappropriate conduct.

A few months after the Model Alliance was formally introduced, Condé Nast International chairperson Jonathan New-house announced that 19 Vogue editors around the world had signed an agreement and would adopt standards to use models over the age of 16 and stop using models who appear to have eating disorders (Wilson, 2012b). The Vogue announcement included the following six-point pact:

  1. We will not knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder. We will work with models who, in our view, are healthy and help to promote a healthy body image.

  2. We will ask agents not to knowingly send us underage girls and casting directors to check IDs when casting shoots, shows, and campaigns.

  3. We will help to structure mentoring programs where more mature models are able to give advice and guidance to younger girls, and we will help to raise industry-wide awareness through education, as has been integral to the Council of Fashion Designers of America Health Initiative.

  4. We will encourage producers to create healthy backstage working conditions, including healthy food options and a respect for privacy. We will encourage casting agents not to keep models unreasonably late.

  5. We encourage designers to consider the consequences of unrealistically small sample sizes of their clothing, which limits the range of women who can be photographed in their clothes, and encourages the use of extremely thin models.

  6. We will be ambassadors for the message of healthy body image (Wilson, 2010b).

Top models travel first class, are pampered with the latest beauty innovations and products, and treated like royalty, just for being attractive on a runway or in a photograph. Models are admired as well as exploited. But working conditions and model behavior expectations are under scrutiny.

Professional Versus Amateur Models

Professional models are trained in modeling techniques and are hired through modeling agencies. As we have learned, these models work for the top international designers in addition to other professional shows in smaller markets. Amateur models are real people, not trained as professional models, and are selected from other resources. Some effective resources for finding amateur models for school, charitable organizations, or independent retailer fashion shows include a retail store’s fashion advisory board, the store’s customers and personnel, the members of the organization sponsoring the event, or students from performing arts or fashion schools (Fig. 6.13).

Figure 6.13

Amateurs may be scouted and trained to model for a fashion student-produced show, such as this one.

Using Professional Models

The decision to use professional versus amateur models frequently depends upon the show budget. Professional models must be paid. Many fashion show directors feel that using professional models creates a smoother, more sophisticated show. Experienced models can handle last-minute changes and the confusion associated with fashion show production. They have developed an authoritative attitude in presenting clothes properly, which translates as confidence as the professional model walks down the runway. Trained models are quick to pick up modeling choreography and routines. Directions and cues are easily learned and remembered. Appointments are responsibly met. Clothing and accessories are taken care of and respected. Any unforeseen problems or emergencies are maneuvered with expert execution. Professional models frequently make excellent suggestions about how to wear or accessorize an outfit based on their years of experience and love for clothing. Pros know how to stress the importance of the clothes rather than themselves.

Using Amateur Models

Shows working with limited budgets may be restricted to using amateur models, offering them a gift, discount, or gift certificate in lieu of payment. This helps to ensure a positive feeling among all the parties involved. It may also encourage purchases at the store.

The success or failure of months of fashion show preparation can depend upon the performance of the models. Many amateur models take their role very seriously. Unfortunately, some of the disaster stories regarding fashion shows come from the ranks of unprepared amateur models. Without some training and direction, amateur models have flown down runways with arms flapping like birds’ wings; others have frozen with fear on the runway after seeing the audience. Untrained models have damaged clothes by not taking proper care of them. Amateur models demand more time and attention to train due to their lack of experience. The show may require a larger number of amateurs than professional models because it will take them longer to change garments.

When selecting the amateur model, the model coordinator and committee need to be sure that the model is willing to make a commitment to participate in fittings, rehearsals, and the show itself. Being a model is not the glamorous job that many amateurs think it is. Having a signed personal responsibility contract, similar to the one shown in Figure 3.12, will encourage professional participation. Stating the model’s responsibilities and time commitment helps everyone understand the expectations.

If members of a charitable organization are selected to model, then the model coordinator must use diplomacy in selecting and training participants. Because these members are not always standard model sizes and often have very strong opinions about what they want to wear, fashion show coordinators must be ready to handle objections with tact. Inexperienced models may not understand that a fashion show is an important part of doing business for the store or manufacturer providing the clothes. They may resist wearing anything they dislike.

Despite some of the challenges, amateur models have a great drawing power. Audiences love to see their friends and relatives participating in fashion shows. They can certainly add to the audience’s enjoyment of the show. Another reason amateur models contribute to a show is the believability factor. When friends and relatives see garments on “real people,” they can see themselves wearing the clothes.

Training Amateur Models

Walking, timing, posing, and turning are very important aspects of the model’s presentation on the runway. Confidence and ease in executing these attributes are instrumental for the professional appearance of the fashion show. The show’s model committee or choreographer will need to train amateur models.

The model must walk with a smooth light pace. Body weight should be forward. The body should be straight, but not stiff. Arms are placed down at the side seams of the garment with palms toward the body. They should be kept loose and easy and not swing out from the body. Hands and arms may be used to point out some design element such as a pocket of the costume. Using hands gracefully is important to modeling. Hands should be relaxed. A slight bend to the wrist is more attractive than a perfectly rigid, straight arm. Placing the hand in a ballet position or bend will be more becoming. Shoulders should be down, back, and relaxed. The stomach should be flat and buttocks tucked under. The steps should be just long enough to keep the body erect. Reach with the front foot and push with the back foot for the appearance of walking on air. Feet should follow an imaginary straight line on the floor.

The starter or stage manager is responsible for the timing of the show. The speed and pace of walking can accelerate or prolong the show. Models can remain on the runway for longer periods of time, giving other models time to change or get ready, by repeating the basic pattern of walking and turns.

Amateur models frequently walk too fast or want to get off the runway quickly. One technique that helps to keep the pace at a good level is to ask the model to stop and pose on the runway. If a photographer is used, the models can be trained to stop at the end of the runway, pose, and wait for a photograph to be taken. This will help to slow down the pace of a fast-moving model.

Expression and personality are often overlooked in the technical aspects of walking, turning, and posing. Although some designers require a different mood or attitude, smiling is a positive expression to show that the model likes what she is wearing in a consumer-oriented show. The model must be able to communicate a variety of emotions depending upon the type of merchandise or show. The model may be called upon to act in any manner from casual to elegant. If the outfit is fun or casual a smile is very appropriate. On the other hand, if the item being presented is sophisticated or serious then a smile may seem out of place. It is important for the model to practice various expressions in a mirror.

For Get Your Fashion Fix on Route 66, Karissa Keiter was the coordinator of the model committee. Her story is profiled in Notes from the Runway: You Can Find Amateur Models Anywhere, Everywhere.… The model committee held model tryouts for amateur models during several open calls in the early part of the academic semester. No prior modeling experience was required. Potential models were asked to fill out an application (Fig. 6.14) and practice some walking routines that were demonstrated by members of the model committee. The model committee observed the candidates walking to music and selected the top applicants.

Figure 6.14

Models who tried out for Get Your Fashion Fix on Route 66 were asked to complete the application shown here.

Models were given the dates for each practice, the dress rehearsal, and the show upon their selection. Each model was asked to make a commitment to participate in each of these sessions. Practices took place at a regularly scheduled time once each week for about a month before the show. The model committee spent the first couple of practices teaching models how to walk, turn, and pose on a floor outlined with masking tape to the dimensions of the runway that was to be used for the show. Model release forms (Fig. 6.15) were signed to allow show producers to use the models’ images in a video, as well as in other promotional and print media.

Figure 6.15

This is an example of a model release form from Runway to Wonderland, which allows show producers to use the models’ images for publicity purposes.

Number and Rotation of Models

There are no hard and fast rules determining the number of models needed for a show. The show organizers need to know how many models will appear in a show, and how long each model will need to change outfits between runway appearances. Adequate time must be arranged for models to change clothes and accessories.

Setting up a rotation schedule for models will help the show run smoothly. One way to use models effectively is to arrange a specific order for the models for the first scene prior to the fittings. Then keep the models in approximately the same order throughout the show. For example, if 15 models are needed for a show, these 15 models are placed in order. In this way model 1 would always appear before model 2 and after model 15. The audience will not be able to detect that models are always in the same order, but the plan gives models adequate time to change. It also helps models to recognize when they should be ready to walk.

Each model should be made fully aware of the outfits that he or she will be wearing and the order in which the garments should be worn. The individual model lineup sheet helps to clarify each model’s order of appearance, outfit, shoes, hosiery, accessories, props, and whether the model is alone or part of a group. Two types of individual model lineup forms are shown in Figure 6.16.

Figure 6.16

(a–b) Here are two different examples of an individual model lineup form, listing or showing the clothing to be worn by each model in the order that the items are to be presented on the runway.

Depending upon the number of outfits, type of show, facilities, and experience of the models, a 30- to 40-minute show may use as few as 10 or as many as 50 models. A fashion week show in New York generally lasts about 15 minutes or less. During that time 60 or more garments can be presented. Typically, models come on the runway one at a time. But lots of models can appear on the runway at the same time, as can be seen in Figure 6.17, taken at the Chanel show in Paris. Karl Lagerfeld recreated the entrance to the House of Chanel, with the half-opened French windows and the boutique on the ground floor (Horyn, 2008). Stretching in front of the couture house replica was a street, complete with curbs. The show opened with the Madness song “Our House,” which gave the audience a lasting impression. The number of models will increase as the designer wants more of a visual statement or the distance between the dressing and stage areas increases.

Figure 6.17

Various groups of Chanel models walked in front of a full-size façade of the couture house erected inside the Grand Palais in Paris.

When selecting and booking models, the model committee should have a few alternative models to prevent the inevitable disappointment and scramble if it is necessary to replace an absent model. Yes, it happens. Although professional models rarely miss a booking unless there are some extenuating circumstances, using amateur models almost always results in at least one “no show.” Contingency plans will help to relieve the pressure of finding a replacement on show day.

After models have been selected, the model committee should prepare a formal model list (Fig. 6.18). A model list includes each model’s name, telephone number, e-mail address, garment size, and shoe size. Members of the model and merchandise committees will find this information essential.

Figure 6.18

After models are selected for the show, a model list with contact information and sizes is created.

Model Responsibilities

Models have a variety of responsibilities during the fittings, rehearsals, and show production. It is most important that, at all times, the models associated with a show cooperate with the show personnel. A positive attitude and professionalism are also appreciated by the fitting, rehearsal, production, and cleanup crews.

Responsibilities during Fittings

Fittings are generally scheduled at predetermined intervals, and the models need to be on time. If a model is late, it can throw off the entire schedule. The merchandise committee or stylist should have a series of garments pulled for each model when she arrives for fittings. The model should be ready to try on clothing. The model should come to the fitting with limited natural makeup, clean and dry hair, and dressed simply without accessories so it will be easy to make several garment changes quickly.

Cooperation between the designer or retailer and show staff as well as the models is very important. The model should never mention whether she likes a garment, unless asked. That is not an important factor when most items are selected to make a fashion trend or color statement.

Responsibilities during Rehearsals

The rehearsal requires teamwork by all involved. Female models should come prepared with a tote bag containing a few supplies: simple makeup and lingerie, such as a nude bra, a strapless bra, a nude thong, camisole, and slip. She should also bring along a seasonal basic shoe wardrobe including nude and black pumps; casual and dressy flats; and black, silver, or gold strappy sandals. Other items to bring include a scarf to help protect clothing from makeup as it is tried on, pins, a first-aid kit, clear or nude nail polish, simple earrings, clear deodorant, and panty liners. Personal hygiene is very important.

The male models’ tote should contain a shaving kit, white briefs, clean white T-shirt, denim jeans, socks (white, brown, and black), belts (brown and black), dress shoes (brown and black), clean sneakers, and deodorant. All models should also bring along a book or digital device to read, study, or listen to music during their down time.

Caring for clothing is a joint responsibility between the show personnel and the model. The model should never pull a garment overhead without a scarf or head covering to protect clothes from makeup. Merchandise tags should not be removed unless specifically told to do so. Shoes should be removed while stepping into or out of a garment. To protect clothing the model should never sit, eat, drink, or smoke while dressed in garments for the show. Clothing should be returned to hangers and properly stored as soon as possible after trying it on and having it approved. A dresser should be available to help each model with clothing care.

The model should be neat, clean, and pick up personal belongings. The model should not expect the dresser or fitter to be a personal maid. Children and friends should be left at home during fittings and rehearsals. Although children may love to see the process, they will be in the way. Friends may offer helpful suggestions, but they too are in the way.

Responsibilities during the Show

Models should be on time and arrive at least 30 minutes before the start of the show, unless given other instructions. This will be enough time to get ready for the show. Models may need the assistance of hair and makeup personnel on the show day. In any case, models should arrive with their personal supplies in tote bags, as discussed previously. Model responsibilities are listed in Figure 6.19.

Figure 6.19

A list of model responsibilities provides guidelines for the behavior and behind-the-scenes activities for amateur models.

Although a dresser is assigned to assist the model, the model should check the clothing and accessories to make sure they are arranged in the order they will be worn during the show. The dresser should prepare the garments by hiding the tags or removing them and putting them in a safe place so they can be re-attached later when garments are returned to the store. The garments should be ready to step into—zippers are unzipped, buttons unbuttoned, and scarves pre-tied if possible. Shoes and jewelry should be lined up. The model should be aware of the model lineup and where the lineup sheets are posted. This protocol should be followed during all rehearsals using clothing and accessories, as well as during the show.

Models should step into and out of clothes only while standing on a covered area of the dressing room. Once the model is dressed, he or she must follow the rule not to sit down. Smoking, food, and beverages have no place near the merchandise. The merchandise must be kept in immaculate condition and be able to go back into the designer’s showroom or retail stock for sale immediately after the show.

Models and dressers should keep conversation to a minimum immediately before and during the show. If it is necessary to speak, use a soft voice. This helps keep the backstage area free from excess confusion.

Models need to be cooperative. They should dress quickly and line up promptly. Listening to the backstage starter and watching for any special cues will help to make everything look smooth and polished.

Models should be pleasant, discreet, and poised. If the model has an accident or makes a mistake, he or she needs to continue without drawing attention to the situation. Mistakes such as tripping on the steps or stage, or dropping a prop or accessory, are very common. A professional model will just ignore the circumstances and carry on.

Beauty On the Runway

Designers cooperate with their fashion show producers to create a story for each of their shows. In addition to using this story for the merchandise, a beauty image is created to further emphasize the vision. From sultry señoritas to rebel chic outlaws, the mood is established for models and merchandise at each fashion show. Next, we look at the show image created by the show staff with the assistance of various beauty professionals.

Show Image

Many people watch the catwalk shows for hair and makeup trends in addition to discovering the changing clothing styles. As we discussed in Chapter 3, the creative director or designer sets the vision for a fashion week show. After the show theme is established, the hair and makeup personnel start working on enhancing the image to be portrayed by the models. For example, designer Francisco Costa for Calvin Klein used the character Lisbeth Salander, from the film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, as an inspiration for his fall collection (Sardone, 2012). Rooney Mara (Fig. 6.20b), the actress who played the character in the film, sat in the front row of the Calvin Klein fashion show, reinforcing the image of the character’s austere beauty. Figure 6.20a shows the models wearing the fashions influenced by the film’s character. The spirit and aesthetic of the character infused Costa’s runway presentation. The stage featured a black floor and walls; all of the girls wore either side-parted ponytails lacquered to a glassy shine or blunt-cut bobs shaved at the nape. The models marched with a thud, wearing thick-heeled shoes or matte crocodile riding boots that echoed over the film’s menacing sound track. Costa faintly softened the look by adding vibrant shots of color to the head-to-toe black dress code worn in the film.

Figure 6.20

(a) Models at the Calvin Klein runway show wear garments inspired by the film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. (b) Rooney Mara (seated at right) became the muse for Calvin Klein designer Francisco Costa’s fall collection and was invited to sit in the front row for the show.

A look backstage reveals the beauty trends developed to coordinate with the designer’s fashion ideas. Whether the look emphasizes the eyes, cheeks, or mouth, beauty trends emerge from the runway shows. Figure 6.21 illustrates a model getting ready for a show. Makeup, hair, and nail polish are pulled together to enhance the designer’s overall creative image.

Figure 6.21

Models’ hair, makeup, and nails are completed backstage before the show begins.

Beauty Professionals

A select group of beauty professionals is hired each season to create beauty images through makeup and hair at the fashion shows. Various makeup artists for the shows use products from Bobbi Brown, MAC, François Nars, and Pat McGrath, a makeup artist who works exclusively with Procter & Gamble, among others.

In preparation for the shows, Bobbi Brown meets with each designer before the clothes are presented. She looks at the fabrics and colors that will be used and starts to create the makeup look for the show, sometimes based upon a phrase the designer used to describe the collection or a significant color being featured. Ms. Brown reviews her plan with the designer, frequently demonstrating it on a design assistant at the designer’s showroom.

MAC sends makeup artists to the four major fashion show cities to consult with designers prior to show week. Working with such designers as Badgley Mischka in New York, Roland Mouret in London, Allesandro Dell’Acqua in Milan, and Cacharel in Paris, MAC artists work under a great deal of pressure, often finishing the look just hours before the show is presented. First, the looks on the runway will be embraced by the early adopters, smaller brands, and high-end stores. However with consumers and brands better connected to one another thanks to social media and fashion bloggers, the timeframe may become even more condensed.

Hair has been worn long and straight, waved, crimped, short and messy, slicked back with gels, or in pigtails. The variety of hair looks is almost endless. Celebrity hairstylists, such as Orlando Pita at Prada, Sally Hershberger for John Frieda at Diane Von Furstenberg, Odile Gilbert at Pucci, Eugene Souleiman at Louis Vuitton, and Guido Palau at Valentino, create the runway hair images to coordinate with beauty and clothes each season.

Amateur Model Look Book

Schools or charity organizations may not have the budget to hire hair and makeup professionals. If a local hair salon or makeup studio cannot be found to volunteer its services, the model coordinator with the help of her committee is responsible for the look of the models. Students and friends with experience styling hair and applying makeup will often volunteer their services for a free ticket to the show. Figure 6.22a shows a page from a college fashion show look book and Figure 6.22b reveals how the look appeared on a model from the show.

Figure 6.22

This is from the model look book for Get Your Fashion Fix on Route 66, showing (a) Look #1 with a leaf design surrounding the eye and (b) a model with Look #1 during the show.

Beauty, as created and emphasized by makeup and hair, is closely associated with presenting fashion worn by beautiful models. In order to fully coordinate the clothes, models, and beauty, we next look at the way models walk down the runway by using choreography.


In ballet or musical performances, choreography refers to the art of devising movements for dances. In fashion show production, choreography includes the plan for the models’ runway routines. The theme, merchandise, and music selected are elements that reflect the look and feel of the show and the choreography should enhance this image.

Choreography is an important aspect of a fashion show. All the runway routines for the show should be worked out before models arrive for the rehearsal. Models will either be posed on stage as the curtain opens or enter quickly and assume a position on cue. The travel patterns will ensure that the appropriate commentary or music is emphasized on cue. A choreographer is responsible for determining the pattern that a model will walk down the runway and the interaction of the models on the runway as they enter and exit the stage area.

Patterns of choreography include the following:

  • Opening the show

  • Entering the stage or runway

  • Planning the runway walk with paces, pivots, and pauses

  • Exiting the stage or runway

  • Ending the show

Opening the Show

Perhaps the most important part of show choreography is the opening. It is critical to the success of the show to get the audience involved right from the beginning. The house lights are dark. A spotlight is focused on one model at the stage entrance. As the general lighting is raised, the model or several models enter the runway. At this point the merchandise, music, lighting, and choreography must all come together. There is a significant difference between the tempo of a fashion show and a theatrical performance. A theatrical performance may open slowly and quietly and build to a climax and conclusion. A fashion show must start and end with emphasis.

Another possible show opening may involve some type of visual effects on the background such as a slide, video, or a light show while the models enter the stage. This can also be used to entertain and perhaps educate the audience before the models come on the runway. Each scene of the show may open using a technique similar to the one used in opening the overall presentation.

Planning the Runway Walk

The choreographer or designer will give the models specific directions regarding how to walk on the runway and describe the pace or relative tempo. The pace may be fast or slow depending upon the merchandise being presented and music, and where pivots—turns, and pauses—a temporary halt to movement, should take place on the runway.


It is not necessary to create a different route for each model as he or she demonstrates each new outfit. It would be difficult for the models and choreographer to remember each separate walk. A compromise of only changing walking routes for each scene could be mapped in advance, and will allow for some variability. Then, as models are given directions, these mapped routes, or planned paths, can be explained and presented as visual diagrams. The route can be numbered and posted with each model’s outfit in the dressing room.

Groups of Models

It generally adds more interest and variety when the show is broken up with different patterns and model groups. Having two models enter the runway wearing the same or complementary outfits creates greater impact and the repetition will help the audience remember the look.

Variations using multiple models are endless. It is common to have two, three, four, or more models on the runway at any given time. The show will be more complex in staging, but it will be more entertaining and effective in showing different colors and designs to the audience. A greater number of models will require more coordination in fittings and rehearsal.

When working with two or more models, the model on the left is considered the lead model. Stage left is considered the left part of the stage from the viewpoint of the audience facing the stage. The other models should keep pace with the lead model. Followers need to practice when to start, turn, and stop in relationship to the lead model.

Two models together may walk to the center of the runway. At the point where a pause or pivot takes place, these two models may make simultaneous turns and continue or separate, walking in different directions (Fig 6.23). Planning choreography in advance will ease the transitions.

Careful coordination during the merchandise selection process and coordination of amateur models into groups will lead to an organized appearance. The models should look good together on the runway. One fashion show featured identical horizontally striped dresses on both a petite, curvy-figured model and on a tall, slender model. The coordinator tried to make the point of featuring the same dress in the complementary colors. Although each individual model looked wonderful in the dress, the desired impact was not achieved because the models’ height and shape differences did not complement each other on the runway.

Figure 6.23

A fashion show with two or more models on the runway can be more interesting than a simple parade of models one at a time.

“The show must go on” is one important point to emphasize to amateur models. Despite elaborate planning and rehearsal, the model may forget the exact route. It is more important to show the garments in a professional manner than to act confused trying to figure out what to do next.

Exiting the Stage

As the model leaves the runway or stage, he or she may stop, turn, and pause, enabling the audience to take one last view of the item being presented. The model’s personal flair may be revealed with some special pose or exit technique. It will also give a photographer time to take another photograph.

The plan must include directions for the models who are simultaneously entering and exiting the stage area. It must be determined if the first model will remain on the runway while waiting for the next model to enter or vice versa.

The Finale

The end of every show should be well coordinated and powerful. It should leave the audience satisfied and applauding. The finale is the last impression.

Generally, the merchandise in the final scene is the most dramatic of all that has preceded. It may be elegant hostess apparel, evening clothes, or bridal fashions. The most effortless ending is to bring all of the models, wearing their final outfit, back on stage. By bringing all of the models back on the runway, the audience is able to review the most spectacular clothing shown during the performance. This type of finale benefits from a large number of models, who by their presence on the runway provide dramatic impact.

Even though editors seated in the front row are frequently asked by photographers to tuck in their legs and feet, they quickly did so at Franck Sorbier’s couture finale (“Fashion Scoops,” 2001). A model wearing a wedding gown entered the runway on the back of a galloping horse. When the horse reared on its hind legs, some editors gasped in fear. No doubt that finale left a long-lasting impression!

When a show features designs from a celebrity designer, it is customary to have the celebrity join the models on stage during the finale. The show may be a charity event or a retail store promotion at which potential customers like to see and meet the creator of the garments. Personal appearances by the designer are very popular events for retail stores. If the show is held during market week, buyers and media personnel will be able to recognize and cheer the achievements of the designer’s work as part of the finale.

Models wearing their last outfit applaud the designer, who enters the runway during the show’s finale (Fig. 6.24). The designer recognizes his or her models, the fashion show staff, and audience by clapping for them. The audience is also likely to show its appreciation by applauding the show and designer.

Figure 6.24

A fashion show finale allows the audience to recognize the designer, models, and the clothing that has been presented.

Importance of Choreography

Properly organized and performed choreography can be used to create focal points for the show. The viewer’s attention is drawn to the specific merchandise or trends that the show producers want to emphasize. A poorly choreographed show looks amateurish and unprofessional, and does not leave a good impression on the audience.

Choreography can be used to reveal certain moods. Elegant and sophisticated merchandise may be accentuated through slow, deliberate movements and dramatic pauses. Athletic apparel can be highlighted through spirited and energetic gestures. Children’s apparel can be stressed through skipping, running, playing games, and so forth. The viewers should be entertained and satisfied with the show so that they will support the mission of the program, whether it is for charity or profit.

The catwalk is where all of the creative and theatrical elements of the fashion show come together. This chapter discussed the role of the fashion model in helping to create excitement on the runway. To achieve the final polished look on the runway, models have been trained to project confidence. Beauty professionals, the hair and makeup artists, have worked their magic to transform models into the dramatic creatures who strut along the runway. The choreographer contributed walking routines to emphasize the merchandise and beauty of the models. This chapter has looked at all of the contributors, making the catwalk an exciting place to be.

The Catwalk—A Recap

  • Fashion models are the individuals engaged to wear the apparel and accessories for a fashion show. They must be able to effectively promote the image of the clothing to the audience in a believable manner and are very important to the image and success of the fashion show.

  • Modeling fits into two general categories: commercial—posing for catalogues, showing clothing in vendors’ showrooms, doing fittings for manufacturers, or posing for television commercials and print advertisements for a wide range of goods; and editorial—walking the runways during fashion weeks and posing for editorial sections of high fashion magazines and for advertisements for prestige and luxury brands.

  • Modeling agencies are companies that represent a variety of fashion models and act as scheduling agents for them.

  • The negative images of modeling come from disreputable modeling agents, schools, or contests that take advantage of models who might be underage, unhealthy (anorexic), or taken advantage of as freelance workers.

  • The Council of Fashion Designers of America, the Model Alliance, and the international editors from Vogue magazine are attempting to overcome the negative aspects of modeling.

  • The decision to use professional (models trained in modeling techniques and hired through modeling agencies) or amateur models (real people selected from other resources) is often a financial one.

  • The visual image and the theme of the fashion show are enhanced by beauty professionals— hair and makeup artists.

  • Fashion show choreography involves the models’ runway routines, which includes opening the show; entering the stage or runway; planning paces, pivots, and pauses; exiting the stage or runway; and ending the show with the finale.

Key Fashion Show Terms

  • advertising model

  • amateur model

  • body parts model

  • bookers

  • booking

  • callback

  • casting call

  • catalogue model

  • cattle call

  • child model

  • choreographer

  • choreography

  • commercial model

  • composite

  • editorial model

  • fit model

  • freelance

  • go-see

  • individual model lineup sheet

  • look

  • male model

  • mapped route

  • mature model

  • model

  • modeling agencies

  • model list

  • mother agency

  • muse

  • open call

  • option

  • pace

  • pause

  • petite model

  • pivot

  • plus size model

  • portfolio

  • professional model

  • request

  • runway model

  • scouts

  • showroom model

  • stats

  • tear sheet

  • television commercial acting

  • test

Questions for Discussion

  1. How does a commercial model differ from an editorial model? What kinds of jobs does each type of model perform?

  2. What is the role of a modeling agency? Discuss the various terms associated with a model agency.

  3. Why does Ashley Mears call modeling a bad job? Do you agree or disagree?

  4. Discuss the responsibilities of a model before rehearsals, during rehearsals, and after a fashion show.

  5. What does a hair stylist or makeup artist contribute to a fashion show?

  6. How important is a model’s walk? What does it add to a fashion show?

  7. What is the purpose of a fashion show finale?

Fashion Show Activity

Break into teams of four or five members. Each team should brainstorm a theme for a fashion show. Based upon that theme, plan and discuss how you would do the following:

  • Stage the opening of the show

  • Create a “look” for the models’ hair and makeup

  • Stage the finale

The Capstone Project

The model committee should schedule a model casting. How do members of the committee suggest inviting potential models to the casting call? Discuss what music and walking techniques will be used during the auditions. Discuss who will contact the models who are selected and who will contact the models who are not invited to participate in the show. Samples of all forms, including model applications, model release forms, individual lineup sheets, personal responsibility contracts, and any other forms deemed necessary should be included in this assignment. Please refer to the CD-ROM for tools that may assist you with this section of the fashion show process.


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