Friday, January 1, 2016

Pay-to-play? No way.

New York Fashion Week?!?!?  We’ve seen it on television – Sex and the City, Entertainment Tonight, Real Housewives…the New York Times devotes many pages to NYFW coverage…it’s huge.  It’s exciting.  It’s REAL.  The.  Real.  Deal.  in fashion.  Right?  But what role is there for children in NYFW?  Or any fashion week in any city?  Let’s first cover how fashion weeks work.

Some shows are huge productions with elaborate lighting, hours of hair and makeup, and legs after legs of gorgeous models.  These tend to be shows by HUGE designers…think Chanel, Marc Jacobs, Chloe, Prada…you know what I mean.  These are the shows that tend to get a lot of press coverage as well.  There are many other shows of all sizes in the City that week…some in designers’ showrooms or small studios…you name the budget, there is a show for it.  Designers often showcase couture (the hand-sewn and embellished one-of-a-kind pieces) along with high-end ready-to-wear to “show off” their looks/concepts for the season, and then have a lookbook available for the buyers to select the items they would like to purchase for their stores.  Some designers show more ready-to-wear looks with a few couture pieces thrown in for their signature touch…and some emerging designers just have a small line of fifteen looks they would love to catch the eye of a single buyer at a good store – just to get started.  It totally ranges!

But here’s what doesn’t happen.  Anna Wintour and Sarah Jessica Parker and Jill Zarin (who famously left a show because she wasn’t front row – Real Housewives reference) and the NYT reporters do NOT pay to attend fashion week shows.  They are invited.  Designers use these shows to showcase their work to get press, ideally good reviews, and to get buyers in the door to purchase their designs for their stores.  DESIGNERS PAY to get their work shown.  They pay the producers or rent the studio, pay for hair and makeup, lighting, probably a photographer to catalog their work, and they send out lots of invitations.  Louis Vuitton?  Will fill a tent.  New designer fresh out of FIT?  Hoping for a big break.  From the big names to the emerging designers, I don’t care who they are…THEY PAY.

Now, whether they PAY THE MODELS or not is somewhat uncertain.  Gigi Hadid?  She gets paid.  But even if she didn’t…her picture would be all over every major fashion publication and social media galore…which would, in fact, be a great score for any model.  Not all designers pay models for runway work.  New models fresh on the scene may go to a fifty castings in a week and may book six shows and may get paid for four…banking on getting some press coverage somewhere for the others.

Now, what is the role of kids in NYFW?  Very little, actually.  I cannot think of many shows that feature kidswear during fashion week.  There are a few, but it’s not a big thing in kids’ modeling.  Sometimes a line will use little ones as accessories or have a few pieces to show.  But NYFW is mostly about the women (though there are men’s and co-ed designers for sure), and those are the celebrities, buyers, VIPs, and press invited to attend.  Of course, children’s buyers and press, etc., would be invited to any line showing children’s wear.

Much more relevant in NYC for children is the ENK Children’s Club trade show, which features tons of children’s designers (WHO PAY TO BE THERE) and is an event that draws buyers from all over the country.  There have been some runway shows there and the organizers of Petite Parade planned their shows to coincide with the Children’s Club shows so that buyers could attend both events when in town.  Petite Parade (see an earlier blog post) was larger when it began and billed itself as (basically) the official show of Children’s Fashion Week, but…it’s expensive to participate and produce, which limited the number of designers who showed.  It would be great for it to really take off, but high-end children’s wear is NOT a huge profit maker.  We may be willing to throw down a few bills for clothes for ourselves, but when it comes to our kids – and an item they will wear maybe once (haha, I bought my daughter a lovely holiday dress this year but never got around to doing a picture – it’s still in the garment bag from shipping) – what’s our bottom line?  Dior can afford a show, but check the label in your child’s best outfit – it’s probably not a huge money-maker.

The title of this post is “Pay-to-play:  No way.”  Since the first word is PAY, you can imagine what I’m getting at here.  Should you ever pay for your child to walk in a runway show?  NO.  Who pays for the runway show?  THE DESIGNER.  Everything about the purpose of the show is to benefit the designer.  I don’t care how “emerging” the designer is – children (and their parents) do not need to support that designer’s show.  There are plenty of designers (and show producers) out there who have offered chances for kids to audition for shows – if they pay to attend.  Or they “invite” children to walk in a show – for $2000.  Can you imagine?  $2000 is TEN two-hour, $100/hr modeling jobs BEFORE commission and expenses.  How many moms would be thrilled to have ten modeling jobs in a year for their kiddo?  Some want you to travel – at your expense – and THEN PAY to be in a runway show.  Do you have any idea how ridiculous this sounds?  And if you try to use it as an example of “legitimate” modeling work, EVERYONE in the biz knows how you got there – you paid for it.  I’m sorry to be really nasty about this, but I am passionate about keeping kids’ modeling a legitimate business for our children.  If it’s not, we all lose.  I use this line of reasoning a lot: we ask our children’s principals to sign off on their permit paperwork here in the NYC market.  Why would a principal sign off on your child missing school to work in a pay-to-play industry?  (I don’t want to get into the school issue here – I’ve threatened in the past to write about it, and maybe someday I will…)  That’s the moral equivalent of taking off from school to go to Disney.  Not how we want schools to view the biz.

I’m only talking here about pay-to-play runway…there are also pay-to-play photo shoots and magazines…I’ll cover those in the future.  Bottom line: never pay for your child to do runway as a legitimate modeling opportunity.

But here’s the question some will inevitably ask:  what if my child really wants to model and we’re not in a big market or my child hasn’t been invited to join an agency?  I’m a little more on the fence about this one.  I do know this: smaller markets and department stores – I know our Nordstom does this – often have smaller shows and they want local kids.  A small fee for these doesn’t really get me too angry – there should NOT be a fee, don’t get me wrong, but it’s kind of like paying for any other activity – $25 dollars to get your hair done and walk down a runway and get a few cool pics?  This may be worth it for you and your child.  $25 to AUDITION, however?  No way!  That is just padding someone’s pocket and is NO benefit to you or your child and is certainly sketchy.  One show is offering two tickets to parents with the $25 dollar audition fee – but seriously, if your child is not selected to walk, are you REALLY going to attend the show?  Doubt it.  And back to those ridiculous fees I mentioned earlier: $2000 to WALK?  Seriously?!?  Even Petite Parade is rumored to be around $20,000 for a designer to show about fifteen looks.  Let’s see…fifteen times $2000…you are part of paying someone $30,000 to walk in their show.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t pay $2000 for a YEAR of any one of my child’s activities, and I am certain she gets more out of those than any one shining moment in some runway show.  (There is even a woman who has gotten models to PAY to attend runway shows SHE HAS CANCELLED several times…I have not had personal involvement with this, but I do have friends who did, and wow, did they regret it!)

So heed my warning.  Stay away.  If you would love for your kid to get involved with fashion but not necessarily pageants, check out EastCoast Starz Runway events.  They do events a few times a year (here on the East Coast, but some families do travel) that have a fee, but it includes a lot of fun things including a custom made outfit for your kid, several photo opportunities, and lots of fun and games for parents and kids.  It’s much more akin to paying for a fun activity for your child.  They also have representatives from some legitimate agencies and managers who attend and meet kids if you’re interested.  I know the woman who runs it, and she works her tail off to provide a good experience for kids.  I know many moms and kids who participate in every event, and they always have a great time.

Any discussion you want to have on this, I invite you to head over to my Facebook page: The Bizzy Mama -- it's an easier forum.  I'm also on Instagram at thebizzymama.

Until next time – Happy New Year!  No pay-to-play this year, ok?


  1. Great points! and well researched!

  2. I have been talking about this issue for decades. Wherever there are artists, actors, models, musicians - old or young - there are d-bags ready to exploit the dreams of those people. They prey on those who want it so bad that throw all logic and good judgment out the window, they (or their parents) pay thousands - and ultimately, they end up with nothing but broken promises and an empty wallet.

    Thanks for writing about this. The problem grows bigger as each year passes, as technology makes it easier for swindlers to reach a greater number of victims. These events are NOT the way young artists are discovered or find a career in the entertainment business.


    Billy DaMota CSA