This year, the fashion industry was forced to reckon with some of its harshest realities, from its poor, often racist treatment of models, to its continued endorsement of men accused of sexual harassment. But the smoke and mirrors that the industry thrives on was hardly undone, as demonstrated throughout 2017 by our ongoing confessions series.
As an anonymous outlet for people in specific roles to reveal what their jobs are really like, sans any sugarcoating, we got a clearer look at the industry’s less than idyllic inner-workings, speaking to everyone from a fashion model to one of the rare women working in streetwear.
Some of these confessions touched more of a nerve (or perhaps revealed a greater truth) than others. We’ve rounded them up, below.
Confessions of a fashion photographer
As the rise of digital continues to transform the fashion industry, no role goes unchallenged, photographer included. In March, we spoke to a photographer with more than 12 years in the industry, who’s worked with clients like Allure and Opening Ceremony, about Instagram’s effect on career prospects, discrimination against female photographers and her endless missing payments.
“I don’t know anyone in this industry who isn’t currently owed thousands of dollars,” she said. “I’m owed well into the $27,000 range in truant payments. Every morning, I wake up and check the list of who still hasn’t paid me. I’m even bringing a class-action lawsuit against a client who hasn’t paid me for four shoots, including a cover — meanwhile, the publisher is posting all of these photos on Instagram of him jet-setting and buying new cars.”
Confessions of an influencer marketing exec
Influencer marketing is going through growing pains, with average pay rates and proper disclosure practices still not entirely clear. In June, we spoke to an influencer marketing executive about the problems still riddling the space, including fragile influencer egos, the supposedly scammy pivot to micro-influencers and what she sees as the media’s disclosure “witch hunt.”
“I find it fascinating: Influencers are still not aware of some things that are very obvious in marketing, like sticking to a schedule. To them it’s not important. They’ll just say, ‘Oh, you know what? I’d prefer to post this Instagram tomorrow because I’m just not feeling it today,'” she said. “For marketers, that’s a nightmare. Your campaign is delayed a day, and you need to update clients and agencies, and suddenly it’s a crisis.”
Confessions of a social media editor
Despite how fundamental it is to the success of brands and publications, social media continues to get a bad rap, be it for enabling the worst aspects of humanity or whittling down our collective attention span. Those who work in the space are subject to the same criticisms and also the same concerns. In May, we spoke to one of these editors with ten years of experience about the stigma attached to her job, the frustrating concept of “clickbait” and the uncertain future of her career.
“It’s frustrating to feel like you’re failing when what is actually happening is the tools you’re using just aren’t as effective. My job was just beginning to be a real field five years ago, and I’m not confident it will be a real field five years from now — or at least not a field where there’s room for growth,” she said. “I know I’m in for another career pivot within the next five to 10 years, and I have some ongoing existential dread about what that will look like.”
Confessions of a fashion designer
Thanks in part to social media, which facilitates unprecedented access to designers’ work, the fashion industry is overflowing with copyright violations. Although social platforms can also provide a means of shaming these copycats, it seems the result is embarrassment at best. In July, we spoke to the designer behind an eco-friendly and activist-driven brand about how a prospective collaborator copied her work and why legal action wasn’t an option.
“It’s inevitable you’ll be copied — it’s a shit show,” she said. “It’s frustrating, and it hurts, I feel very hurt. We’re not expected to be polite, we’re not expected to be ethical. It is a silent criminal action, where you’re stealing and it’s OK.”
Confessions of a fashion editor
Despite the rise of Instagram influencers, fashion editors have held on to a level prestige in the industry, with designers and brands often clamoring for their attention and endorsement, but their actual role now varies widely across publications. For example, those at online-only publications spend most of their days curating shopping stories or churning out quick news blurbs. Nevertheless, they’re still busy, said one editor we spoke to in August. Just don’t imagine anything glamorous.
“Of course, we get very little sympathy for this, because most people assume our lives are glamorous. The reality is that we’re schlepping all over Manhattan, in all types of weather, for meet-and-greets and ass-kissing festivals — and we’re supposed to look pristine at all times,” she said. “It’s not glamorous, and it gets old very fast.”
Confessions of a fashion freelancer
As once-popular magazines continue to shutter and publishing houses tighten their budgets, staffs at fashion glossies are shrinking. To pick up the slack, most publications have turned to freelancers. In June, we spoke to one of these writers about the lack of job security, missing former perks (like an assistant) and having some of her pitched ideas stolen.
“There’s a huge gap in payment for print articles versus digital. It’s astounding. Print is generally around $2 per word, whereas websites usually offer a flat fee per story, no matter how long it is. The highest online rate I’ve gotten so far was $700, and the lowest I’ve gotten is $100,” she said. “Honestly, taking on a story that’s 800 words for $100 is not worth it. I try not to take anything on for under $250, but it can feel impossible not to. If a site is offering me consistent work, but refuses to pay more than that, I often feel like I should just accept it.”
Confessions of a casting director
When The Fashion Spot posted its seasonal diversity report after the fall 2017 shows in March, industry headlines were quick to celebrate a banner season. Across New York, London, Milan and Paris, more women of color had walked the runways than ever before — but some shows still had no models of color. In July, we spoke to a veteran casting director who has worked with brands from Lanvin to J. Crew about this continued lack of diversity and how some top-tier designers are contributing to the problem.
“These top designers hoard the models — often with no intention of booking them — and then refuse to release them early enough so they can book other shows,” he said. “It’s like playing rummy: They won’t throw down a queen because they know the opponent might need it.”