New survey highlights shocking exploitation in the fashion industry

3 April 2017
By Fashion Quarterly

“Sweatshirts instead of payment is f*cking BS”

With definitions of beauty constantly shifting to reflect a changing culture, seeing more diverse models fronting campaigns or striding down the runway has seen the international fashion industry make huge strides towards greater inclusivity in the last few years.

On the surface, the modelling business is a great place to work but behind the scenes, it would seem, the models are telling a different story.

A survey by has revealed the dream job, for some at least, has turned into more of a nightmare with accounts of sexual assault, pressure to under eat as well as a lack of proper pay.

The results come hot on the heels of casting director James Scully shocking revelations on the Business Of Fashion late last year that the international industry is marked by racism, discrimination and bullying.

The survey spoke to models working in the industry asking them the question: “How should a model be treated?”

While there were those who responded anonymously, there were some, like Jay Wright who spoke out about their experience saying “some [clients] just have a huge ego and they treat me like I am replaceable, the least important in the fashion chain.”


While Jay’s response highlighted one of many problems models face, the submissions also shed light on some of those more serious and, potentially, damaging issues.

These are some snippets from the stories the models shared to, exposing the unfortunate realities of a seemingly glamorous industry:

“I’m happy to see more street castings happening in the fashion industry—times have changed. We’re ready to see a more racially diverse selection of models and body types, but I can’t help but think brands are profiting off these new crop of models unfairly: With zero experience in the fashion industry and no agency behind them, these models don’t know their own value. A job that would go to an agency model for $1500 can go to a ‘street cast’ model for a couple hundred bucks, cash-in-hand. How many times have I seen street cast models being held on set for 12, 15, 18hr days for $150 or the exposure of working with a good brand or photographer. In the long run, not only do I see this driving down the rates for agency models, I see it as the exploitation of these diverse new faces. We say we want fashion to be more inclusive, but hitting up a kid on Instagram and offering a couple sweatshirts instead of payment is fucking BS.”
– Cailin Hill Araki

“I got a semi-exclusive for an A-list show with an opening guarantee during my first season in Paris. When [the designer] found out I was transgender, something no one knows about to this day, they cancelled my booking; they somehow considered it a risk—that it would draw too much attention, something they thought would affect the brand negatively: A very doubtful decision, especially considering that I was [then] an unknown new face.”
– Anonymous

“So many women are having to compromise their physical and often mental health for the advancement of their careers. The boundaries of what a model should be are too black and white, leaving little or no room for error or individuality. Of course, there are wonderful role models like Ashley Graham and Iskra, championing body positivity but the industry’s reluctance to stray into the ‘middle ground’ of sizing is alarming and limiting.

“Body inclusivity isn’t just a trend or something that should be accepted in the industry to appease or satisfy a demand. It’s not an exclusive privilege that should only be afforded to celebrities or activists. It should be a right across the board. I’d feel empowered to be part of a diverse, accepting industry like that.”
– Emily Butcher

“I was once shooting a lookbook where the stylist, helping me dress, used this chance to feel my body up much more than necessary and continued to do so throughout the entire shoot. Countless times have I had to undress in undesirable public situations, but even now I can remember the disgusting feel of this man’s hands tracing my body. Most of us start when underaged, we develop and mature as women under all this as the norm. What has already happened has happened, but please do not let this continue to be so.”
– Fernanda Ly

You can read the rest of the shocking stories here.

Photos: Instagram
Words: Emilia Mazza

Subscribe & Become an FQ VIP

As a Fashion Quarterly subscriber you enjoy exclusive content, giveaways, invitations to VIP events, and more.

Subscribe & Become an FQ VIP

As a Fashion Quarterly subscriber you enjoy exclusive content, giveaways, invitations to VIP events, and more.

Sign up to the FQ newsletter and WIN*

Get the latest fashion, beauty, and lifestyle news delivered straight to your inbox each week.

*Ts&Cs apply.

Find out more at