Fashion Week: Pay for jobs that could get you there to hobnob with Paris Hilton

Fashion Week is on in New York City. Stuck out here in Seattle, with a job about as far from fashion as one can get, I had no luck convincing my boss to pay for a junket to Fashion Week.

What jobs would get me to Fashion Week? Do any of them pay well? I did a little digging using our salary survey data. I found a couple jobs that pay a reasonably salary, and I would stand a chance of being able to justify a week in NYC to the boss.

These are not jobs where you will automatically rub elbows with Hilary Duff and Usher, or ogle Nicky and Paris Hilton from the first row, or even be able to afford clothes from Marc Jacobs, but you will be in the fashion industry, and have a paycheck that is good enough to keep your family off your back about getting a "real" job.

Fashion Model: First let's rule out the obvious: being a model is a great job for a few hundred people in the US. For the rest of the models, it is a a nice part-time job at best. I have a better chance making a living as a professional golfer than as a professional model, and I'm a 20+ handicap.

We have only a little data for models in our database, so take this with a grain of salt. In Seattle, the pay for models is between $10 and $40 per hour, and the work week is 10 to 20 hours. Taking the middle ($20/hour, 15 hours/week), $15,000/year in extra income is nice, but it is not a career.

In our PayScale salary database, the states with the most model data (implying the most jobs for models), after the obvious New York and California, are Maine, Washington, and Georgia. I wonder where LL Bean, Bon Marche, and Rich's are headquartered. The later two recently were absorbed by Macy's, so it may be slim-pickings for models in Seattle in the future.

Fashion Designer: Now let's get serious. I was surprised to find that there is actually work for fashion designers in Seattle. The pay is reasonable, with a median salary of $42,500/year for experienced designers, and the high end going up to $70,000. Not enough to buy a $1,000,000 condo in Downtown Seattle, but a good living.

Of course, it is better to be an experienced fashion designer in New York. Salaries there have a median of $77,000/year, and can easily go to $110,000/year or more. However, NYC doesn't have 300 inches of snow a year and fantastic skiing less than an hour outside of town. That more than makes up for the pay difference. :-)

Seattle Fashion Designers also can easily justify a trip to NYC for Fashion Week. How else can they stay current on the latest trends?

Department Store Buyer: Before you buy the clothes from Macy's, someone has to buy the clothes that Macy's stocks. Being a buyer is another job I could have here in Seattle which would justify the trip to Fashion Week.

For experienced Department Store Buyers in Seattle, the median salary is $55,000, with top buyers earning $95,000/year. We also have a lot of data from Washington State, implying it is a common job here.

The pay for buyers is better in New York, but not that much better than Seattle. The median salary for an experienced buyer is $63,000 there, with the high end above $110,000/year.

By the way, Jennifer Aniston's character on Friends had the related job of being a buyer for Ralph Lauren. It is not good that I know this :-)

Garment Sewer: There once was a clothing manufacturing industry in the US, but not anymore. We have a total of 5 salary reports from Garment Sewers nation-wide. The median pay is $9.50/hour. There isn't much upside: with 25 years of experience, the pay only goes up to about $15/hour.

Enough dreaming of careers that were not to be - my next post will be back on the nuts and bolts of statistics and compensation.


Dr. Al Lee


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