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25 Aug

That state of fashion models in a pandemic


The global coronavirus pandemic has changed the world view of running an enterprise. Businesses have suffered and eventually embraced the new normal i.e primarily moving on to digital mediums. Fashion industry has taken a massive hit and those associated to the industry were in a bad shape, at least until last month. Now, with global fashion connoisseurs resuming activities with more informed decisions, Pakistan has also stepped forward and Frieha Altaf of Catwalk Event Management has so far organized two virtual fashion shows.

As the pandemic forces many professionals to work from home, it is highly unlikely for some people to do their jobs with social distancing parameters. Case in point: models who constantly have to get makeup retouches during their shoots. Something Haute caught up with 3 fashion models and asked them how they are keeping busy during this unprecedented time.

Mushk Kaleem

Mushk Kaleem, who represented Pakistan in Milan Fashion Week last year as a muse to Italian designer Stella Jean, shared that there was barely any work up until July.

“It was a stressful time for everyone including designers, photographers, and models. When I heard about the lockdown being implemented, I knew that I wouldn’t be working at all for at least three months. Then came Ramadan, and everything came to a standstill. I was relying heavily on my savings. Even though some people were working secretly, I just didn’t think it was worth it. Alhumdullillah, work has picked up the pace again and I have back to back bookings,” Mushk revealed.

With no fashion weeks and Eid campaigns, survival of a model must be difficult. Now that work has resumed, has the revenue taken a hit?

“Revenue has taken a hit dramatically. Major campaigns were either delayed or halted. Of course, since I wasn’t working, I wasn’t making any money. But now work is back on track and I’m trying to make up for the three months of dipping into my savings,” she added.

Mushk also shared that in desperate times like these, many models resorted to side businesses.

“A few models have started their own clothing business. Some have moved to acting, some make money by brand endorsements on social media, and styling videos; it’s all interlinked. But the important thing is that most models are supporting their entire families. It’s very difficult to have another job, while you’re modelling. Modelling is a full-time job with no fixed hours. You need to save up for rainy days. So, in COVID times the only backup plan is a stable bank balance.”

Is she comfortable being back at work now?

“I believe that masks are here to stay. Of course, strict SOPs are still being followed. Makeup, brushes, sets, jewellery and everything is sanitized. Initially, I was very angsty about working since models come in close contact with a lot of people on set. Makeup artist are touching our faces, hair stylist are touching our hair, stylists are grabbing and tucking the clothes, so it’s hard not to be a little paranoid. But prevention is better than cure. So I’ve adapted, by also carrying my own makeup brushes and makeup for my shoots, to ensure minimal contact,” Mushk shared her alternatives for protection.

Roshanay Afridi

We last saw Roshanay in Asim Azhar’s music video Soneya. The model revealed that she stopped working in March as soon as the government imposed lockdown in Pakistan.

“I stopped working in March because my family back in the US had started to warn me about COVID. I had booked my flight for the end of March and that’s when all the airlines started to cancel their flights. That was the moment I knew that it was more serious than people had been taking it in Pakistan. I knew that shoots were still going on, however, I decided to not do any just because it was too risky,” she said.

Roshanay insisted that her health is always her priority therefore her life came to a standstill.

“I still get food poisoning all the time even though I’ve been in Pakistan for over a year. So I could not risk my health. Now after almost five months, people have gone back to work and there is more safety in terms of SOPs. However, I don’t think the number of COVID patients is coming down any time soon,” she added.

Did models have any backup plan to survive these testing times?

“I think this differs from person to person. But I know that most models don’t get paid up front, this has been a longstanding issue in our industry. I think models are finally getting residuals of their previous work or promised payments,” Roshanay said. However, the model maintained that even with SOPs, the safety of each individual is his/her own responsibility.

“I have heard that better SOPs are put in place but I think it’s still to each their own. Insha Allah, may we all come out on the other side of this with our health.”

Javeriya Hanif

Javeriya Hanif, who was seen sashaying the ramp in Zainab Chottani’s clothes recently at the Catwalk Cares Virtual Fashion Show Season 2 believes that the pandemic crushed every industry, including the fashion business.

“Textile industry, retail brands, designers, everyone associated with the fashion Industry went under a huge loss during this pandemic. When the lockdown was announced, all the fashion weeks, award functions, campaigns, in fact, everything was cancelled. Gradually, things started getting better. Thankfully, now life is getting back to the ‘new normal’ with all safety precautions,” Javeriya said.

 “Being a fashion model is itself a full-time job. I salute all the girls who are pursuing their career in other fields along with modelling. There are hundreds of new girls coming in every year and making their name in the business of fashion who take modelling as a part-time job and earn money for further studies or are even a breadwinner for their families. To be honest, every single person is worried about their financial needs in these times, and earning through modelling is no less of a challenge either,” she said.

Javeriya is back on her job and she is quite satisfied.

“We, models on shoots, are the ones who are most exposed. We can’t cover our faces with masks or wear PPEs. So every single person, be it a makeup artist, stylist or a designer, is thoroughly sanitizing their products. On the other hand, photographer, art director, set designer, and spot boys are given strict instructions to follow SOPs. Everyone tries to maintain a healthy distance from each other while wearing masks or even PPEs. We make sure that the lesser the number of people on shoot the better!”

“I’m very much comfortable with working in these times, given that all the SOPs are being followed, and I make sure that I follow precautions in my daily life as well,” she added.


Syeda Zehra

The author is Assistant Editor at Something Haute. A journalist by profession, the writer has a penchant for films, fashion and music.