Elizabeth Rose, London’s top modelling agent, recently remarked that fashion might be the “only industry where men get paid less than women”. The agent, who has contributed greatly to the careers of popular models such as Cindy Crawford, also said “it’s unfair for men”.
At a time when women are fighting for equal pay with regards to their male counterparts in almost every field, modelling is, perhaps, the only glamour industry in which women have an upper hand when it comes to remuneration. The trend is no different closer home. Male models often rue the fact that their wages are far less than what a female model earns per show.
Amit Ranjan, who has been modelling for the past 11 years, says Bollywood is male-oriented, and one will often see actors over 50, playing lead roles in films. But the fashion industry is female-centric. “Any good show at a fashion week will have just four to five male models and 16 to 17 female models. The problem is that the demand is low, and the supply is high. Every month, several men enter the industry with the hopes of becoming top models. But the reality is that there isn’t much work for male models out there,” he says.
Ranjan reveals that in India, designer womenswear still rules the market and designer menswear falls in the niche segment. As a result, designers are keener about releasing collections for women. This results in more shows for female models, and fewer for men.
Apparently, there is so much competition in the industry that to be part of a show, male models are often forced to slash their show rates. “There are models who are even willing to walk the ramp for free. This creates a sad situation for people like me who have been in the industry for a few years and don’t deserve to do shows for less money,” says another model, Rouhallah Gazi, who has been doing shows for the past four years, and has managed to make a name for himself in the industry.
He adds that because he doesn’t like lowering his rates, he often loses out on big shows. “People still want to pay me what I was paid four years ago. I don’t know why people don’t understand that with time, a model’s experience increases, and so does his budget. But designers take male models for granted,” he says.
Industry sources say while an upcoming female model is paid anywhere close to Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 per show on average, a budding male model is paid Rs 6,000 to Rs 8,000. Similarly, an established female model gets anywhere close to Rs 45,000 to Rs 50,000 per show, but an experienced male model doesn’t usually get paid more than Rs 30,000 per show.
Most male models feel that this disparity is the doing of the designers, who believe in “always negotiating” with male models. “Models usually decide how much they should be paid, but they are always asked for discounts. They are told that there are ‘budget constraints’. For designers, there are always more options available. So, most models accept what is offered even if they don’t think it’s apt,” says model Siddharth Rawal.
Echoing a similar stance, Gazi asks that when designers make money from their shows, and are willing to spend on other aspects such as production, then why do they have a problem giving the correct amount to models, who are such an integral part of the show? “People feel even if we don’t take an established model in our show, our show will still go on. They know that if one person refuses to walk for them because of pay, they will still have someone or the other who is willing to walk for a lower price. Designers should respect models and give them what they deserve, because at the end of the day, we work very hard as well,” he adds.
Stringent rules needed
Because of this situation, several male models feel that a special body should be set up to regularise the payment scale for models. Rawal says there should be slabs that determine rates on the basis of experience. “Then, a standard will be maintained,” he adds.
However, till that happens, Ranjan recommends male models pursue a parallel career to sustain themselves. “My advice to upcoming models is that they should complete their education before entering the modelling industry, and they should not leave their jobs till they make a name as a model. It is not easy to look good and fit at all times. These things require money, and the industry doesn’t pay that well,” he says.
However, designer Swati Vijayvergie is optimistic. She says change is in sight, as an increasing number of designers are creating exclusive collections for men. “We see more men on the runway now. So, this (the pay disparity), too, should change slowly with time,” she adds.