As Chinese supermodel Liu Wen displays her shining points during a stage show for Victoria's Secret, dozens of fitting models are also working hard at a garment market in Zhuzhou, Central China's Hunan province.
A young female model nicknamed Lili said in an interview at a local clothing store that "We usually put new clothes directly on the body and take them off in more than ten seconds to save time to try more clothes on. At the same time, to attract more customers, we also will try on preferable styles upon request."
Decent income has become the source of impetus and perseverance for the young models. "If a female model in good shape works very hard, she can earn more than 10,000 yuan ($1,540) per month," a shop manager named Nana said.
However, it seems drawbacks go along with the decent income. A model nicknamed Amy, born in 1995, one of hundreds of fitting models in the Sijiqing garment market in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, has been engaged in the industry for more than three years.
"I get up at 4 o'clock every day," she told TheHour.cn. "Putting on my makeup takes me 15 minutes to half an hour. Customers rush to the market to pick up goods when it opens at 6 am."
Long working hours and pressure have also made her aware of her health issues. Although Amy earns from 10,000 to 20,000 yuan a month, she has to get up at 4 am and leave work at 4 in the afternoon. Long-term lack of sleep has caused changes in her very young body. "My hair is falling out, a lot of it." Sometimes, she also endures irregular menstrual cycles.
On the other hand, unlike traditional fitting models who work backstage in a studio, the garment market models don't pay much attention to their working environments. They often have to put on and take off clothing in a public environment, which means that while displaying new clothes, female models sacrifice their privacy in front of customers.
"I was very shy about undressing in public at first, but gradually I got used to it," said Shasha, a post-90s fitting model who used to work in a kindergarten. She has spent four years in the Zhuzhou market. "Modeling is a more appropriate job for young people. As time goes on, I hope to have my own clothing store."
According to a report surveyed by market consultancy iiMedia Research, as the recruitment requirements for those models are mostly focused on appearance and body, and the barriers to entry are relatively low, the total number of such fitting models had reached about 13,000 by 2020.
And due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many fitting models have turned to e-commerce platforms like Taobao and JD to promote their goods and services, where livestreaming sales are happening almost every day.
He Bijun contributed to this story.