Thoughts On- Marc Jacobs Hiring Underage Models and Not Paying Them

Marc Jacobs Marc Marc Jacobs Runway Fall 2012 os9e7jn73OHlImage VIA ZImbio 
Marc Jacobs has had a bad bad year. Not only were two of his collections stolen but his ad campaign featuring Dakota Fanning was very publicly banned in the UK for being too sexually provocative. More recently during the Fall ‘12 shows at NYFW Jacobs violated CFDA guidelines by casting several underage models in his show and unapologetically explaining,“I do the show the way I think it should be and not the way somebody tells me it should be. If their parents are willing to let them do a show, I don’t see any reason that it should be me who tells them that they can’t.”

In this latest bit of controversy a Model is claiming that while working as a “fit model” for Jacobs prior to New York fashion week she was forced to stay at his atelier way way past legal working hours and was ultimately not paid for the job. While Jacobs quietly shrugged off the previous incidents, this morning he took to twitter and fired back.

Surprisingly enough Jacobs is a board member of the CFDA or Council of Fashion Designers of America, but clearly he doesn’t seem to take much interest in the laws set forth by the council and they did not fault him and responded that it is up to the designers to decide whether to follow its guidelines. Optional laws? Imagine if all laws were optional, like you shouldn’t drive drunk but if you want to, well that’s ok too. This voluntary enforcement of laws is precisely how Jacobs was able to get away with casting two 14 year old girls in his fall 2012 show. Ironically the CFDA awarded Jacobs with the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Scouring through the CFDA’s guidelines reveals a much more important and more ignored law, that the designers are not allowed to keep a model under the age of 18 past midnight. Fair enough, right? Hailey Hasbrook a model with Elite Management who only turned 17 in January claims that she worked as a “fit model” for Marc Jacobs prior to fashion week in excess of 30 hours, none of which was paid in the end. What they did instead is trade clothing for her time.

In the bizarre world of fashion it is not unheard of to pay the girls in clothes and shoes. The clothes and shoes in question are of course Balmain, Versace, Ralph Lauren or in this case Marc Jacobs and cost thousands of dollars, so it is not as if the model is walking away completely empty handed. Not as far as the designers are concerned at least.

WWD recently featured the newcomer in their “Model Call’’ section and interviewed her about working long hours among other things. 

Did you have a lot of late nights during New York?
One night I did looks for Marc Jacobs from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., and then the next day I was there until 4:30 in the morning. And I had Theyskens’ Theory the next morning with an 8 a.m. call time.
According to Jezebel, Hailey explained a little bit more about her work for Jacobs on her Tumblr which she has used to document her various other work during fashion week as well. Her job at Marc Jacobs began on Saturday of NYFW. She said that at Jacobs' casting, "I got to meet him and everything, which was pretty cool," and that her other appointments and fittings for the day were cancelled when the designer requested her to do looks for him. “Doing looks means that I am kind of like a live mannequin in a way. They try all the garments and looks on me to put together what they are going to use for the show...Despite the long hours it was actually a lot of fun.”

From 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. is a solid nine hours of work — and it's a shift that ends two hours after midnight, when minors like Hailey are supposed to be permitted to go home. Then, on Sunday, she wrote, “Sunday was a VERY hectic and LOOOOONGG day…..It started with a casting for Rodarte at 11:00 in the morning. Then, I had MORE looks for Marc Jacobs. The SCHEDULED time was Noon-4:30. They ended up keeping me until 6:00, though, causing me to have to switch around my schedule and cancel some things.”

Hailey then had to run off to another job, Reed Krakoff to be exact, paying $20 for cab to make it in time but soon found out that she had been dropped because Jacobs had kept her at his atelier for too long. That very same afternoon the relentless time constraints only got worse for the teenager.

I get a call from my agency saying Marc wants me BACK to do more looks. They told him that I would do it but I had to have an early night because I had shows early the next morning. They told me that I shouldn't be there any later than 10:30. Well, 10:30 rolls around and I ask Shawn if he knows when I will be ready to leave. Only to find out that they have me booked open-ended. Meaning that they had no specific end time for me. After a couple phone calls, they decided on 2:00 am. Well, 2:00 rolls around…. I hadn't been trying things on for a while so we all thought I would be good to go. I go and start to get dressed only to be called for in the other room by Marc. I didn't end up leaving until around 4:30 in morning.”

All the hours as a “fit model” piled together with doing the Marc Jacobs and his younger line of clothing Marc by Marc Jacobs shows brings Hailey’s grand total to 23 hours of doing looks and 6-8 hours of runway modeling.

In case you are not familiar with how young, new models get paid, we will briefly explain it for you. A model is signed on by agency X and sent out to castings by her agent. Since 99.9% of the time the girl is from out of town or more so the country she is put up to live in a “model apartment”- a sort of hostel that fits three or four girls in a glorified studio, the rent and utilities for which are deducted from any gig they book. Any dime the agency spends on taking a girls picture for her portfolio, hair appointments, making duplicates of editorials, traveling expenses whether it be NY to Paris or a cab across town are all billed to the model. Now you might be thinking, this girl has not made a cent yet, how are they billing her?? We here is the tricky bit, the model is indebted to the agency so to speak until she makes enough money to pay them off and then if -and that’s really big if- she ever gets past the debt the portion left from paying off her agent and modeling agency is what she can keep. The agency is like a sort of parent or bank is who gets paid by jobs as well, so they make sure to keep their share before the girl ever sees any money. Because the poor girl still needs to survive in the interim, agency X gives her a weekly allowance to spend on herself. The allowance is usually a measly $300 or so a week which is to pay for everything from toiletries and groceries to incidentals.  

Hailey who as you might have guessed by now lives on the allowance that her agency Elite gives her on a weekly basis wrote on her blog that they debited her “payment” for working the Jacob’s gig from her account as an advance against her future earnings- even though it was only in clothing. We told you this whole thing was going to be bizarre.

In the “Model Call” interview Hailey told WWD that Jacobs gave her a bag, dress, jacket and shoes. Clothes and and shoes are pretty cool and all but cold hard cash seems to be a more pertinent commodity for a girl that lives off her agency.

Sara Ziff a model turned activist created the Model Alliance along with Lisa Davies (a model as well) precisely for this reason. After working for years and witnessing the demise of many girls lives under these unregulated shocking conditions she is currently working to pass laws that will govern working conditions, hours and agencies shady accounting procedures.

Davies wrote a piece on the Model Alliance website recently regarding her own experiences.

I began modeling at age 16, and over the course of my 14-year career I turned a blind eye to opaque agency bookkeeping. I did this because of the power dynamic that exists between the agency and the model: I felt I was not in a position to question or challenge unexplained charges because I was dependent upon the agencies to procure work for me to be able to afford to live. Today it is clear to me that the accountants at modeling agencies work for the agency, not the model. Models, unless they have “celebrity” status or bring in a lofty income, have no voice, no power, and no platform to question their agencies’ unclear and unexplained accounting procedures.

Until last year, my only professional experience was modeling, so I was unfamiliar with the protections and rights that are afforded to workers in other professions. But when I earned my BSN degree from Hunter College and began working as a Registered Nurse at a major medical institution in New York City, I gained a new appreciation for the astonishing lack of financial transparency in the modeling industry.

I no longer rely financially on modeling to cover my living expenses, which enables me to speak more freely about my modeling experience. My working relationships with individual modeling agents and the agencies that have represented me over the years have been, and continue to be, friendly and successful. However, my interactions with the accounting departments at my agencies have generally been uncomfortable, unsatisfying and, at times, absolutely deplorable.
I visited the accounting departments of my agency and of the hospital where I work with questions about charges that appeared on my statements. The differences in the responses I got and how I was treated compelled me to write this article.

We urge you to visit the original article and read Lisa Davies’ entire post to gain more insight into the gritty details and super shady procedures firsthand. Jezebel hit the nail on the head explaining why so many girls just don’t stand up for their rights when it comes to their agencies, “Models are often in the dark about money matters for more prosaic reasons too: most of them are very young, and many haven't mastered English.”

LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey) the owner and parent company of the Marc Jacobs brand as well as Louis Vuitton and many many more luxury brands made a net profit of $4.13 billion last year, according to WWD. Their 2011 financial reports revealed that its revenue grew by 16% over 2010's levels, to €23.66 billion, or $32.94 billion. Louis Vuitton experienced another year of double-digit revenue growth; analysts put its total revenue at €6.5 billion, or $9.05 billion.

WWD also reported that Jacobs and his long-time business partner Robert Duffy negotiated a substantial increase on their salary and benefits packages with LVMH, which incidentally already placed them among the highest-paid designers and fashion executives in the world. The duo reportedly asked for a higher salary somewhere in the low eight figures each, plus other benefits. Sweet.

So what did Marc Jacobs have to ultimately say about poo-poo platter full of scandal? About three hours after Jezebel broke the story, Jacobs tweeted a stiff response aimed specifically at Jezebel, Jenna Sauers (the Jezebel writer that wrote the story), the Huffington Post’s style section and last but not least, Ellie Krupnik (who penned Huffington Posts report).


Ziff fired back her response to Jacobs via twitter immediately.


Since this story was reported by Jezebel and picked up by all the top news sources, Hailey disabled her blog on Tumblr replacing it with a statement professing her love for Jacobs, that she was “HORRIFIED” by the implications that she was taken advantage of by the designer and that she was given “plenty of food and drinks” during her long hours. She is sadly young enough to think that being fed properly was the source of outrage by the adults reporting on her time with Jacobs and his team.

She goes on to say that she preferred to be paid in trade and that she is “not complaining one bit about it at all.” Clearly Elite had a little talk with the model and set her straight, we have to wonder how bad of a firestorm she faced when they and Jacobs cast their furor on her for naively writing about her experience in a public forum.

In an industry where underage models work with sleazy photographers (hint: Terry Richardson), are driven to the ground with agency debt and are told that the only way they will ever “make it” is to shut up and accept the unlawful conditions placed on them by a clueless and more often careless fashion industry the most obvious solution is to place enforced  regulations unlike the CFDA’s voluntary ones.

What Jacobs did in stiffing the girl by giving her some shoes and tops might be morally wrong but this won’t be the last time a 17 year old model is dragged around New York city for jobs and kept until 4 in the morning. Certainly not until the strong arm of the law steps in and forces agents, designers and the fashion industry in general to adhere to basic child labor laws instead of flippantly dismiss them.  

model-call01Image VIA WWD

No comments:

Post a Comment