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Wide ranging pay scales dominate the fashion industry. The lowest numbers are found in retail sales, and begin with minimum wage. However, high-end figures salaries are earned by workers in all areas of the industry, including promotion, production and design. Factors affecting wages include experience, skill set, labor unions, and professional reputation within the industry.
Fashion promotion positions include brand ambassadors, models, photographers and writers. A fashion model's rate is the highest within this group. Modeling fees range between $75 and $125 per hour while day rates fall between $750 and $3,000. Determining factors are assignment type, agency reputation and the model's billable rate. When residual fees are paid on printed materials, a model may earn considerable additional money by the end of the contract. Models pay a portion of their fees back to their agency. Fashion journalists, writers and photographers work in on-staff positions or freelance. The fees for these positions vary by publication, assignment and artist rate.
On the design end of fashion are the designers and illustrators. Well-known designers reign at the top, in terms of pay. Junior or associate designers are the lowest paid, with salaries ranging between $30,000 and $60,000 annually. Lead designers, however, make upwards of $90,000. They are in charge of departments that include production illustrators and associate designers. For big name designers there is no cap on income. Annual salaries are usually based on profit margins. Overall, the median income, according to Department of Labor information, is around $61,000 per year. Fashion illustrators are hired from the mid-$30,000 to $65,000 annually and can go up to $100,000 on the high end. Freelancers set their own rates.
The production of fashion is largely protected by unions. Positions include drivers, seamstresses, drapers, pattern makers, and textile manufacturers. Among these skilled workers, pattern makers tend to be the highest paid. Salaries begin in the mid-$60,000 and go up to the $100,000 range, as workers climb the union scale.