Young models who strutted the catwalk during Wellington Fashion Week are outraged at being told they were working for nothing, because they were getting useful experience.
Katy Phillips and Pimsupa Puthipirog say they worked between six and seven three-hour shows each during the April event, plus preparation and training time.
They were expecting to be paid for their work - but festival managing director Cameron Sneddon said first-timers were told beforehand that they were doing so for no payment.
Fellow model Sophia Maioha-Mackay, who was working at the event for the third time, said she was still waiting to be paid, and had been told she would not receive nearly as much as she was expecting.
The pay issues follow problems from fashion week's first year in 2012, when several models and companies claimed they were not paid.
Victoria University student Phillips, who worked at fashion week for the first time this year, said models were never told before the event that there would be no payment for those making their debuts at the event.
It was only after she emailed model casting manager Corina Mathie, asking when she would be paid, that she was told there was no payment for the first year.
Fees rose to $40 a show for second-year models, and $60 for third-years. Maioha-Mackay was told she would receive her pay by May 20 - but is still waiting.
In her previous two years, she worked through an agency, but has struggled this year after working independently.
An email sent to her from Mathie shows payment was to be between $80 and $100 a show, but when she emailed Sneddon asking about her money, she was told the fees were "never that for anyone".
Since then, Maioha-Mackay, who is also a student, said neither Mathie nor Sneddon had responded to her emails. "I think with Wellington Fashion Week it was very much lacking in communication, and I think that's been the main problem and that's what's causing these difficulties for them.
"I think it's a good thing - what they're doing is good for Wellington - but they need to step up their game . . . I wouldn't mind if I just got an email saying [the wait] might be a bit longer, but there's nothing like that. It's common courtesy."
Puthipirog was also modelling at the event for the first time and was adamant she was never told she would not get paid.
She gave up a huge amount of time to take part in the event, and even if she was being paid, it would have been well under the minimum wage, she said.
Sneddon refused to talk directly to The Dominion Post, instead referring questions to a public relations agency.
In a written statement issued by the agency, he said fashion week had been unhappy with the level of professionalism from some models in past years and had made adjustments because of this.
"We don't think we should be paying to train up models, but it has been necessary.
"This structure is not unfair, and volunteer work isn't unheard of at commercial events.
"These models are gaining invaluable industry experience and professional training free of charge."
He regretted any delays in communication and all accounts owed by fashion week would be cleared by June.
"There are no issues with finance this year. We expect more professional work and behaviour from models who demand a professional rate."
* Comments on this story have now closed
- The Dominion Post