A fashion model displays clothes, hairstyles and other fashion accessories to buyers, customers and the media. You might model these items at fashion shows, or at photoshoots for magazines, catalogues or advertising campaigns.
Professional models fall into two categories. As a live model (catwalk model) you could be:
standing still for long hours while the designer drapes and pins garments on to you
demonstrating the finished clothes by wearing them in front of potential customers
walking, turning and posing along the catwalk to display clothing to an audience
pointing out different aspects of the garments
changing clothes quickly between routines.
As a photographic or commercial/advertising model you could be:
spending a lot of your time going to castings and auditions for jobs
posing for photographs for magazines, calendars, catalogues, posters, adverts and promotional events
following the photographer’s instructions on poses and facial expressions
specialising in advertising a particular kind of fashion item: clothes, jewellery, shoes, make-up, hairstyles
working closely with stylists and hair and make-up artists
acting or delivering lines in a TV advert.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual salaries may vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
Earnings as a model can vary widely depending on the type of job and your experience and reputation.
Rates of pay can be hourly, daily or for each event or photo shoot. This can range from £15 to £65 an hour, or up to a few hundred pounds for a day, depending on the type of modelling and which company or brand it is for. A top model can earn several thousands of pounds a session. The agent takes around 20 per cent of your earnings.
If you work for a fashion house you will get a regular salary. This could vary from around £10,000 to £30,000 a year, depending on the number of hours spent modelling.
You may have to spend long hours on your feet including waiting for photographers to set up a shoot.
You might work indoors or outdoors, often wearing clothes unsuited to the surroundings: swimwear on winter beaches, ski gear in a hot studio.
You might have to travel a lot, spend time away from home and work irregular hours.
As a photographic model you might have to pay for clothes for photographic sessions.
You might have to travel to castings and auditions at your own expense.
You might not get a lot of work and need a second job to make ends meet.
On a job, you have to wear the garments, have your hair styled and make up done according to what the designer or director wants. You don't usually have a say.
Physical appearance is more important than educational qualifications.
Models should have clear and healthy skin and good hair, teeth and hands.
Live models should be at least 1.72 metres (5ft 8") tall for women and proportionately around 34-24-34 (86cm-61cm-86cm). Male models should be at least 1.83 metres (6ft), chest 40 (suit regular), and inside leg 33ins (84cm).
Some agencies hire plus-size, or curve, models, and it is more common now for a wider size range of models to be used for advert and photographic shoots.
Persuading one or more agencies to take you on is the most important first step. It is essential to use a reputable agency. Many agencies go for a certain 'look' which you may not fit, so you should be prepared for some rejection.
Send a few clear photographs, both full length and head and shoulders, along with age, height, measurements and contact details. You must not digitally alter the photographs.
It is illegal for an agency to charge you a fee upfront for trying to find you work.
Most female models start at age 16 or 17, although with parental or guardian permission and supervision, it may be possible to start at a younger age. Most mature models have started modelling at an earlier age.
What Does it Take?
to be prepared to work long and unsocial hours
an interest in and knowledge of fashion trends in clothes, accessories, hairstyles and make-up
self-confidence and an outgoing nature
reliability and good timekeeping
poise and natural grace
patience and stamina — some days may be long or hectic
perseverance and the ability to deal with criticism and rejection
the ability to network with photographers and agencies
the ability to follow orders and direction.
Training is not essential, however it can help towards becoming a successful model.
Most agencies will give new models guidance on skin care, hairstyles and appearance.
Some private schools run training courses for models. These courses can be expensive.
Many models learn on the job after getting on an agent’s books.
If you work for a big fashion house you might be only a part time model, spending most of the time on clerical duties.
Most models are self-employed.
Entry is very competitive. Your agency finds you short term jobs (you might be listed with several agencies). Most agencies are still in London, but an increasing number are elsewhere.
For women there is more work in live modelling.
Most male models work in the photographic field.
A small minority of models earn very high rates of pay. Most models, however, cannot support themselves from modelling alone and have to do other jobs as well.
There is no career structure and job security is limited.
Fashion modelling can be a short career, but once you have gained experience on the job and have made the necessary contacts, you may be able to move on into a related field. Possibilities include fashion consultancy, fashion journalism, teaching in a model school or agency work.