The fashion industry often gets quite a bit of flak for taking advantage of those within its purview, whether it be underage models, overworked interns, indie designers whose creations are targeted by copyists or the often un-paid freelancers upon which the industry so heavily relies for its content needs. The latter category has given rise to no shortage of discussion - and even new New York City-specific legislation - in recent months.
Just last month Vogue's parent company Condé Nast made headlines for adding language to its freelance contracts to allow for quicker payment in exchange for a discount on the agreed-upon rate. This set the industry and the internet abuzz with fury.
Fashionista first shed light on the vendor memo issued by Condé, introducing the new payment terms. According to the memo, “At the top of our project list is an accelerated payment option, which will allow you to get paid more quickly when a small discount taken off the invoice is accepted. There will be more news coming out on this enhancement over the next few months.” (Note: Condé Nast has since stated that the new language is meant for larger vendors, such as Staples and FedEx, and not individual creatives).
In addition to making note of the Condé memo, Fashionista shared the following reality, “Though freelancing comes with its fair share of freedoms, it also has very tricky setbacks, particularly in regards to getting paid for your work in a timely fashion.”
It is connection with this point that New York-based photographer Kristiina Wilson has attempted to provide a solution. Wilson - one of the founders of agender site, You Do You, a “collaborative platform for people of all sizes, ages, colors, abilities and genders" - knows a thing or two about freelancing, working with Allure, Opening Ceremony, various international Glamour and Elle publications, and Models.com, among others.
With some outstanding invoices of her own, Wilson, who has worked in fashion photography for over 10 years, is a fitting pioneer for The Shit List, her new site “for creatives to publicly list truant and unpaid accounts, as well as to research new clients."
"Unpaid invoices? Clients using your work but leaving you on the hook financially? Wondering if a prospective client will pay you promptly or leave you hanging? Curious as to if some publications are notorious for truancy or if it’s just your bad luck?" This is the domain covered by Wilson's site.
As noted on The Shit List, which is organized as a blacklist directory of companies, “More than 70% of freelancers in New York alone report that they have trouble getting paid for their work. On average, freelancers were stiffed $5,968 in 2014.”
New York City has, in fact, enacted legislation dedicated to ensuring that freelancers are paid (the local law, entitled, the NYC Freelance Isn’t Free Act, took effect on May 15, 2017 (more about that here)), and subject to “mandatory contracts, 30-day payment terms, payment agreement protections, contract responsibility on behalf of the client, anti-retaliation protection, and non-payment penalties.”
However, as noted by this new site, this law is not without its limitations. For example, it only applies to freelancers who are paid more than $800 for their work, which is certainly not the case every freelancer, with some publications paying roughly $50 or so per article.
So, how does The Shit List work? Well, it enables freelancers to “browse the previously uploaded invoices to for your own intel – and maybe reach out to others who’ve been screwed over by specific publications.” Also, it enables creatives to “submit [their own] truant invoices,” which are publicly made available to view.
As of now, a kposptarz.com subsidiary, designers Amber Sceats and Samara Liu, photographer Ryan Kibler (who has shot recent campaigns for DKNY, Public School, Topman, and Converse), and The Frisky are listed in connection with outstanding payments to freelancers. Wilson, herself, has posted an outstanding invoice for $1,090.26 for work she did for 25a Magazine in July 2016 that has not been honored.
Why did Wilson start the site and what does she hope to achieve? She told TFL on Wednesday, "I actually hope that fashion becomes more honest, open and transparent as a result of this. I hope that people are able to actually make a living (not because of the site specifically, but hopefully because of resultant changes industry wide)."
She elaborated, saying: "I think for a long time those of us in fashion have been too embarrassed to admit that unpaid jobs effected us because we were all stunting and acting like we were doing great when we weren't - it's so easy to look fabulous and busy on social media. At this point, when so many amazing artists I know are waiting tables and walking dogs and scrambling to pay their rent because Vogue Arabia doesn't want to pay them ANYTHING, I have stopped caring about burning a bridge or flipping a table."
"I hope we can all come out and feel ok saying look -- I'm having a hard time. We are all having a hard time. Let's get together and stop faking it so that things can start getting better!"