How to be a Fashion Model
The Fashion eZine - Modelling

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Tips on Dealing with Modelling Agencies

There are a number of reputable modelling agencies in operation. But many exist that are not legitimate. Scams, prostitution and drug addiction are rife in this industry, so it's important to be informed.

You should know two important rights when dealing with modelling agencies:

If you have signed a contract and the services have never been made available, you can cancel the contract and get your money back.

You have 10 days after you receive a copy of the agreement or when all the services are available to cancel it, whichever is later. The best way to cancel is by sending a written notice of cancellation by registered mail, fax or e-mail.

Tips to Help You Make an Informed Decision

  • Avoid any firm that claims it will guarantee work if you sign on with them.
  • You shouldn't be required to buy services from affiliated photo studios, training schools or video producers.
  • Be wary of firms that advertise or hand out leaflets.
  • Check the agency's reputation before you sign a contract and consult a lawyer.
  • Don't rush into anything. Be aware of pressure tactics.
  • Talk to people familiar with the industry.
  • Modelling agencies should not require you to take a course or lessons as a condition of representation.
  • Avoid paying any large advance fees.
  • A portfolio consisting of a variety of photographs of the model in different clothing and styles is required. A photo shoot costs $400-$500 on average (including wardrobe, makeup and hair styling). Three or four shoots are often required with different photographers to put together a complete beginner's portfolio – a reputable agency will pay these costs. If the modelling agency wants you to pay, walk away.

    Industry Information and Support in Ontario

    Aspiring actors and models can contact the Acting and Modelling Information Service (AMIS) at 416-977-3832. AMIS is an industry watchdog that runs an information hotline and website about the business practices of talent and modelling agents.

    The Entertainment Industry Coalition promotes a code of conduct for talent and modelling agents who want to run their business in an ethical manner. Their work has grown from working with AMIS.

    About Modelling Agencies

    A modeling agency is a company that represent fashion models, to work for the fashion industry. These agencies earn their income via commission, usually from the deal they made with the model.

    The top agencies work with big-budget advertising agencies and fashion designers. They invest money into developing their talent so they can increase their status within the industry. These top agencies will help train models, get test shoots, layout portfolios, and put together comp cards (composition photo cards) and other printed materials models need.

    They find work by presenting their models to designers, photographers and ad agencies, booking the jobs, billing for the jobs, and eventually paying the models for their time. By handling the details, an agency allows a model to focus on modelling and not on the business end.

    Because modeling is a very competitive, fast moving business that extends beyond the traditional 9 to 5, an agency generally conducts business 'round the clock' to handle emergencies, such as cancellations or rush jobs. Most agencies have a service or an operator to direct emergency contact after hours.

    Booking Agents

    Modeling agencies use booking departments to keep track of who uses models. The agency has a phone that is manned and an office that a client can visit. These agents also send out reminders for fresh comp cards. They advertise, do lunches, do cold calls and turn over stones to find available modelling gigs

    Contractual Agreements

    Most agencies sign their top talent to exclusive contracts in each market, which vary in length based on the model's industry status and experience. However, because a good agency finds their models work and negotiates top price for their talent, they earn a management commission (between 10% to 20%) from the model of every job they book on a model's behalf. In addition an agency usually bills a client an additional 20% service charge for booking the model, so a typical agency will make between 10-40% on each booking of which no more than 20% comes out of the model's pocket. This varies outside the US due to each country's law and taxes.

    Auditions and Open Calls

    Modeling agencies will require new faces on a regular basis. The number of models in an agency depends on the demand brought in by its agents and changes throughout the year. To this end, modeling agencies advertise in local phone directories in order to remain visible.

    Each new model-screening process is different from one agency to the next:

    A dry call is where models mail unsolicited comp cards to an agency. While this may work with smaller agencies, larger agencies are constantly being inundated with these cards and frequently discard unsolicited comp cards.

    Another option is the walk-in, where a model calls for an appointment at an agency and receives and interview on that particular date and time. The model then has an opportunity to quickly review with the agent past experience and show his or her portfolio.

    The most popular process is the open call, where an agency will advertise that on a certain day, they will allow anyone to show up for an interview. Depending on the popularity of the agency within the industry and the advertising done by its agents, anywhere from several dozen to hundreds of candidates could attend an open call. It is not uncommon to have a line extending for several city blocks.

    Fashion Shows and Fashion Weeks

    Agents and talent managers work together to prepare and develop models. One of the most important assignment for models is to work or attend fashion shows or fashion weeks.

    A fashion show is a runway event put on by a fashion designer(s) to showcase their upcoming line of clothing. Each show requires anywhere between 15 to 60 models, depending on the size of the collection and the importance of the designer(s). Fashion models walk the runway (or catwalk) dressed in the clothing created by the designer(s). Participation in these events is essential for any model.

    A fashion week is a series of shows by different fashion designers. Each show books their own talent, though many models are able to land jobs with multiple designers. This is a model's chance to really get noticed, which can lead to big contracts and very lucrative jobs. Each fashion week consists of two events; one for spring collections and one for fall collections.

    The fashion weeks in major fashion capitals such as New York, Paris, and Milan can have over 100 designers showcasing their work. These weeks are also sponsored by big names, such as Mercedes Benz or Olympus.

    Fashion Campaigns

    Models vie for the prestigious fashion campaigns, where they get to model for a particular designer. One of the most sought-after campaign is the fragrance campaign, where a model can earn a substantial amount of money. Some of the most competitive fragrance campaign include Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani, Chanel, Valentino, and Gucci.


    Because of the necessity for an agency in a constantly changing industry, where old agencies close or merge and new ones pop up in their place, scam artists have many opportunities to prey on new, unsuspecting models. A legitimate modeling agency should have knowledge of the market place and honestly evaluate models for their market. It will have contacts with photographers, graphic designers, and printers to prepare a model's marketing materials.

    In the United States, the Better Business Bureau registers complaints against agencies that conduct dishonest business practices and scams.

    Scam artists and untrustworthy agencies generally demand long-term contracts up front and use high-pressure tactics to con models into committing to high-commission percentages or signing over unnecessary rights.

    An example of a modeling scam is when an agency claims to have work but really what they are doing is trying to sell photoshoots and modeling courses to aspiring models. A legitimate agency should only make profit off agency commissions.

  • Prostitution

    Prostitution is a large fixture in the modelling and fashion industry. Some modelling agencies are borderline escort services and act as pimps between you and the Johns (or in this case the photographers). A large number of photographers like to have sex with the models and take photos for their "private collection" (which is sold to the highest bidder on the internet).

    Avoid any modelling agency that asks for nude shots or poses. They are not looking for fashion icons, they're more interested in pimping you and/or making porn.

    Remember: Modelling swimwear is one thing. Sleeping around for money makes you a whore.

    Drug Addiction

    The life of a fashion model involves a lot of partying and sooner or later drugs are going to be present. Your agent at the modelling agency may have told you these parties are good to advance your career because you get to hobnob with rich/powerful people who can help your career, but think twice and thrice about snorting cocaine or injecting heroin during such parties. Drug addiction usually leads to the downfall (and death) of many fashion models, supermodels and celebrities.

    You might even think drug addiction and "dying tragically" is kind of glamourous, but you should think about how glamourous it will be when the police look at your rotting corpse with your face in a pile of puke.

    Anorexia & Eating Disorders

    Speaking of puke, the next concern is eating disorders, all too rife these days in the fashion industry. The industry however is trying to cut back on the amount of anorexia and bulimia that plagues fashion models. It is getting to the point where governments are thinking of passing laws and making industry standards for BMI.

    Which means the days of waif-thin anorexic models are over. Athletic is the new hot stuff. The new trend in the industry is to hire models who have more muscle on them, do yoga, dance, run and exercise regularly instead of starving themselves to death. They are basically looking for a "runner's physique", so your first step is to take up jogging. There are also benefits if you like doing abdominal exercises and even weightlifting. Being more physically buff can be an advantage and can land you work with Nike, Adidas and more sportswear clothing lines.

    There is also a growing trend towards models with larger and more perky busts, as opposed to anorexic models who look more like men.

    Top Modeling Agencies

    In order to qualify as a top modeling agency, there are certain criteria:

    1. The agency must be located in a top fashion capital for the simple reason that the most lucrative and prestigious modeling assignments are there. These cities include: New York, Milan, Paris, London, Tokyo, Toronto, Sao Paulo and Barcelona.

    2. The agency is well-known and respected in the fashion industry and has a good reputation, in so far, as monitoring agencies or governing bodies in their respective country, like the Better Business Bureau in the US and the association of fashion designers and the group handling the city's fashion week.

    3. The agency has directly provided a model with a lucrative assignment for a top fashion design house (for example Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Calvin Klein, Prada, Valentino and Giorgio Armani among others).

    Some of the top modeling agencies in the world are:

  • Elite Model Management - New York City
  • Ford Models - New York City
  • IMG Models - New York City
  • Models 1 Agency - London
  • Storm Model Agency - London
  • Trump Model Management - New York City
  • Wilhelmina Models - New York City

    How to Be Preteen Fashion Model

    Competition is on the rise in every field including the field of modeling. With the widening of the market base (magazines, fashion and glamor industry), the demand for models has been constantly on the rise.

    The demand for baby models - to propagate baby costumes and baby foods, as well as hot teenaged models - for selling sex toys - has all become very common and is considered as a very important marketing tool. With the widening of the modeling market, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of models. Therefore, the number of people opting for a career in modeling is on a steep rise and the market is literally flooded with aspiring models looking for good quality modeling assignments. However, in order to get a break and prove one self to be a good model, he/she must possess certain essential qualities – such as discipline, determination and commitment to make it to the top.

    For those aspiring to become a pre-teen model, here is a word of caution – the modeling market is full of dirty minded people who have little moral values. A little slackness might even land an aspirant to be used as a porn model. So, one must be very careful as to who they work for and maintain a strictly professional attitude right from day one. Here are a few tips which will help to start off as a preteen fashion model.

    It is advisable to undergo some kind of formal training to enhance one’s modeling skills. For this, one must enroll himself with some reputed modeling school and undergo a crash course, which is usually not very expensive. Trained models have a definite edge over untrained aspirants since the casting agents usually prefer those models who have undergone some kind of formal training in modeling.

    Apart from preparing for a strong career through a formal training, it is also essential to be able to market yourself well. For this, one needs a good quality portfolio, consisting of both close shots (to reveal the facial features) as well as long shots (to reveal the built and personality). One needs to carefully select what to wear and where to get the portfolio shot because it is the portfolio that finally helps a casting agent judge a pre-teen model’s suitability for various modeling assignments. A pre-teen model should briefly mention his / her academic background, list of modeling assignments undertaken in the past, languages known and also a few lines about one’s dreams and aspirations pertaining to the modeling industry.

    One must not allow his / her aspirations of becoming a pre teen model to go unfulfilled just because someone in the industry gives poor reviews of their work. Instead, one needs to pursue his / her goal with determination and remember that disciplined and committed efforts will definitely help you succeed as a pre-teen model.

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