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Fashion Models in the world of Capitalism

By Deepanjli Saraf

Capitalism is an economic system where the factors of production are privately owned and this ownership concentrates the power with the owners of means of production. A corporate or entrepreneur uses these means to generate profit. Capitalism needs constant innovations to keep sales high. The fashion industry is such that it produces new trends in a very short span of time that every new season, post six months people want to update their wardrobe to keep up with the new fashion trend in the market. “Fashion is a child of capitalism, indeed it’s favourite’ one”. (Hoskins Tansy 2014). It is one industry that covers the largest market and is accessible to all.

In this vast world of means of production, the fashion models play only a part to the booker, usually being the Fashion designers or the Brands or the magazines. They are the kind of labor that works as a walking mannequin. They present themselves in the clothes, heels, hair, make-up, pose and smile as decided by the professionals, i.e. the booker, make-up artist, hair-artist and the photographer. The models are given little authority to decide for themselves and the so-called ‘elite’ professionals are the ones making decisions for them.

However, this constant authority of the booker over their figure and looks has been causing consequences vis-à-vis their association with their own body. They are not only alienated from their own self, but also from the clothes or props that they wear for the display. The models carry a superficial image. “The picture on the magazines are the constructions by the professionals and are not their own pictures,” – Camerson Russel (a fashion model). The models are subjected to the objectification of their bodies by professionals and feel that their looks are a masterpiece of an expert just like a painting made by an artist which is put up at an exhibition for show.

In a capitalist society, the capitalist works with an individual consciousness i.e. his/her only aim is to maximize his/her profits. The clothes that fashion designers or brands style and produce are only commercial products, unlike the textile craftsmen in traditional society. In the primitive society, the textile designed and produced by the then craftsmen were a glimpse of the culture and the tradition they belonged to. The designers now cannot relate to the product they are producing.  The capitalist belonging to the bourgeoisie class is least concerned for anyone else, not even the means of production it owns. It acts as an anarchist, uses the freedom to create jobs and hire or fire the employees freely. Also, this capitalist can alter the wages and employment in the market as per its whims to the extent that the models are required to report or travel at just a call of a booker.

Consequently, these fashion models constantly feel job insecurity. These models are devalued to being mere props used to display clothes and new fashion trends in the market. The list of insecurities gets longer with the adding concern of appearances and the fear of wardrobe malfunction on the ramps. They, at times, work unwillingly and continuously and bear the brunt of the shiny and glittery industry. Their income goes away in paying bills of the modeling agency, taxes and to buy those mega brand heels on their booker’s demand. They go ‘out of demand’ after a certain age and might even lose their job if their look ‘is defected’ by a scar, etc. Hence, these fashion models’ job is not only economically burdening but also, emotionally taxing.

In the fashion industry pyramid, the ones at the top are constantly thinking and minting money with the fashion revamps happening every six months. Little attention is paid to the employment conditions, including starvation, of those at the bottom. The fashion industry scenario adds another prong: Is capitalism best only for the elite, more able and advantaged participants or whether the less able and less advantaged can also reap its benefits someday.

Deepanjli Saraf is a student of Masters in Public Policy at Jindal School of Government and Public Policy.


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