I have wanted to write on this topic for long but somehow it always got postponed – modeling industry in the region and how it compares with the International markets.

One thing is for sure the potential in our region is huge. There is constant growth in this field both regionally and particularly in UAE. This can be easily seen in the number of fashion shows designers from different countries are participating.

Fashion Forward, Splash Fashion Show, Vogue Fashion Experience, Bloomingdale’s Fashion Week, Arab Fashion Week, to name a few are now organized every year and some twice a year.

In addition, designers from neighboring countries have also chosen to showcase their collections first in Dubai as it has grown to be the fashion capital of the region.

Furthermore, many famous international fashion houses have started organizing their fashion shows here as well: Ted Baker, Timberland, Carolina Herrera, BCBGMAXAZRIA and Chanel amongst few of them.

So, coming back to the main subject – what is the difference between the local and international market?

To start with, most models in the region can register with any/ all agencies, which mean a lack of exclusivity for the agency discovering the model or training her/ him.

The laws of the region restrict people from staying in the country without a permanent job or sponsorship. This means that there are a handful of models flooding the business at any one time. However, this trend is starting to change. In an attempt to have fresh faces for their campaigns, brands are demanding international models and agencies have started bringing them. Another key aspect is that in more mature markets models start at a very young age (14 onwards), in the region the average age is 21+.

While there are quite a few established Modeling agencies in town, there is lack of transparency compared to other established markets. Most of the models know only about the rates they are offered and do not have information on how much the client is paying the agency. As a contrast to this, in more mature markets, models know how much the client is paying the agency and the percentage they will keep and all have legal contracts and not just a model release paper.

Apart from established agencies there are many freelancers who work without proper trade license and provide more competitive rates to the clients, this is what I call short sightedness even from clients to save some dollars. Who will be responsible for protecting the client and model rights in this case?

A few days back I had a brief discussion with few of our international models who have worked in different markets and then have come to the region. Models that have travelled the world before and modeled in Europe, Turkey, China, India, Greece or Thailand say that they would love to stay longer in this region as life and money both are good here. They also feel that while both the money and lifestyle are much better, the industry is not evolved yet and we have a long way to go…however surely on track.

For us thought leaders, is there anything we can do to change this?


Author: Adriana Usvat