The Fashion Firm

A guest post by Keli Lenfield

What does Tom Cruise and modelling have in common?

Like him or hate him, Tom Cruise has made some brilliant movies and whether he is directing, producing or starring they are always winners and he is always running in them!

Do you remember the movie “The Firm“? Cruise played a rookie lawyer from a working class background, his life was hard with no hand outs and he had to work three jobs to pay for his tuition and of course find time to study. He was then offered the job of a lifetime with a top law firm after a grueling interview and a number of false promises.

Then came all of the bonuses and surprises.

A beautiful new house in the suburbs, fully furnished, friendly neighborhood, a new car, expense account etc. Bonuses and lures can be in any guise, they are hoped for, dreamed about and completely unexpected when they arrive in the early days of your career. They are also normally given in a way that you feel no initial obligation to pay back in any sense or form, but that is where the catch is. These lures and false promises are a familiar story in another industry and this industry does come with a price.


“The Industry” or “THE fashion FIRM” as I believe it should be called, builds their businesses on fantasy – which is part of the fun. You see, this industry dictates what you where and what you are to look like otherwise you are deemed “not good enough” and “not having the right look”. For a lot of would-be, could-be models the considered decisions from the industry can make or break their careers. Let me give you a few examples of the similarities between Cruise’s “The Firm” and a model’s “The Industry”.

Who are they, “The Industry”? Who are these people who dictate how you should look, eat and live? Are they a private, members only, old boys club that has been monopolizing the modelling and fashion industry for so long that no-one dares challenge them? Don’t get me wrong, I know for a fact that these individuals worked their silk and diamond covered rear ends off to get where they are and deserve serious respect for their achievements, but they are “The Firm” of high fashion.

The promises made to potential models are endless, because if you do make it, the world is your oyster – the irony is, that it is up to “The Industry” as to whether or not you do make it!

Models get a taste of what the super-life is like when they go to shoots, meet designers, have photographers show interest in them, attend castings, travel for work and mix at the after-parties of a show. The modelling world quickly becomes your new family and as we all like to feel wanted and to “fit-in”, this treatment is mesmerizing and intoxicating, much like “The Firm” family. The promises to make you a star, the introductions become overwhelming and the excitement is never ending and everyone wants to know you, work with you and be you best friend – life’s good! All the clothes look perfect on you, your confidence soars, more people want to get in on your popularity and before you know it you are walking for some of the biggest labels in the world, are featured in all of the top magazines and are being introduced to music icons and movie producers.

And then, you’re not.

You see, in order for all of this to be worthwhile for “The Industry”, models are reminded daily what they owe and to whom. If there is a hair out of place or too much body weight, you are no longer “in”. The industry can and does change their minds more often than not, and if a model doesn’t fit the latest look and doesn’t play by the ever changing rules, they are out, deemed not good enough and no more work is offered or available. Your “friends” are no longer around, the invitations dry up as quickly as the work and the next “it” girl is already trying on your shoes and clothes.

“The Industry” dictates your look, how skinny or voluptuous you have to be and whether your look is in or out. No reason is given. One minute you are the in thing and everyone wants you, the next you are asked to completely change what you look like to the point of serious health risks, not to mention self esteem and body image issues or you are out – for good. No work and no compensation.

This is why the modelling industry IS the most competitive industry on the planet. But there is hope.

The recent founding of Model Alliance.Global has brought experience and powerful change for the way the industry treats people and in particular models. As a global collective, models need to know that they have the power to challenge and change the industry for the better. There is tertiary grade proof that diversity on the catwalk actually increases sales and with corporate social responsibility being a driving force behind many of the world’s top brands, it is only a matter of time before acceptance and ethical treatment of models and people becomes a powerful influence amongst fashion industry leaders.

Model Alliance.Global is a global collective of socially responsible brands and individuals who believe in and endorse the ethical treatment of models and people. Their members achieve fair trade for people by adopting the principles and operating procedures of the fair trade for people charter and actively seek to work with members who do also. By joining Model Alliance.Global models will be educated, supported and safe in the knowledge that whomever is a member whether they be a brand, agency, creative or industry leader, models will be treated with respect, transparency and professionalism.

Be part of the solution. Join now at:

Keli Lenfield is an author, course developer, social entrepreneur and animal ambassador. She delivers courses to disadvantaged youth and writes for a number of magazines including The CEO Magazine and Haute Living. Her book has gained worldwide reviews and she is the founder of Keli and Model Alliance.Global. Her tag line “Be the Difference to make a Difference” motivates her to be the walking and talking example for all who admire and inspire her.


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