More than 30 models at TFM/360 India have accused the model management agency of not paying their dues, which collectively amount to almost Rs 1 crore. Many of the models allege that they have not been paid since 2018.
According to some of the models LiveWire spoke to, a lot of them had no choice but to quit the job and take loans to manage their daily expenses, which also includes the cost of maintaining their physique – a professional necessity. As per the agency’s contract, they are not allowed to work with a different agency within three months of terminating the contract. However, they can work independently with other clients.
In response, owner Ashish Soni has called the allegations “baseless” and says that his hands are also tied because of the bad financial condition of the company. The company, he says, has been running in losses since 2018, when a foreign investor pulled out. The pandemic, the designer says, has worsened the problem.
The news was first broken by anonymous fashion watchdog on Instagram Diet Sabya, after which one of the models reached out to LiveWire to highlight the issue.
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Over the last couple of months, we’ve gone back-and-forth between 20+ creatives (models, make-up artists etc) and their talent agency, TFM. Mumbai-based agency, TFM allegedly owes them lakhs of rupees in unpaid dues. Multiple rounds of clarifications later the fact remains unchanged: Money is still owed! The bitter industry truth is that modelling/talent agencies are notorious for withholding money and TFM has been pulling this stunt since 2018 (shocking!). The models have finally had it and are no longer willing to wait for their own money. TFM agents did give us multiple reasons/explanations for the delay citing Covid economy, breach of contract, models misbehaving etc etc. Most of these explanations seem to be just excuses to buy time. Moral of the story? It’s a messy, and incredibly heartbreaking situation for these creatives, who are dependent on agencies for their livelihood. Discuss!! . . . #issuedinpublicinterest
‘Not pandemic specific’
The models that LiveWire spoke to, however, say that the issue is “not pandemic specific” and that the agency has been routinely delaying payments over the past couple of years.
“In 2017, I had to pester them several times to get my payment. When I did get it, it was not what I was promised,” said Abhijeet Singh, who worked with TFM/360 India till 2018.
During that period, he says, he didn’t have the money to pay his house rent and had to seek help from his friends. “They kept telling me that they don’t have money to pay us. But how do I say that to my landlord? The constant pressure was so frustrating, I couldn’t concentrate on my work,” he added.
Similarly, another model, Shivam Singh, alleges that the agency hasn’t been releasing money despite getting paid by clients. He says he did eight projects with the agency, but hasn’t been paid anything for the past eight months.
“I have been following up with them continuously for my pending payment. All I get to hear is that they have not received the payment from the client. I did some digging myself and found out that all my payments have been cleared by the production houses,” he said.
Sharvi Bhujbal, another model who worked with TFM/360 India until January 2020, says the clients did release the payments in various instances. Still, she got her first payment 18 months ago for an assignment that she did in September 2018.
Deteriorating mental health
Sharvi and other models say that the whole process has been mentally frustrating, with many going back home and leaving their projects midway. “I really began to question my worth as an actor and a model because of the way I got treated. There needs to be strict laws that agencies need to abide by. Otherwise artists will continue to suffer,” she said. “Models don’t really pose an apparent threat to the agency, that’s why we are taken for granted.”
“I have felt traumatised by this experience of working with TFM/360 India. I expected them to represent me and my talent, but I couldn’t even get my due payments from them. It has caused a lot of financial and mental turmoil,” said Shivam.
Models say that TFM/360 India has also not been answering their queries, seeking explanation on the delay. “I haven’t been paid for over two years despite constant follow ups, calls and legal notices. ‘No reply’ has always been their strategy to avoid confrontation,” said Arlette Evita Grao, another model.
She says the situation is similar in other agencies as well. “This is an extremely persistent problem in the fashion industry. I know models, managers and talent artists that remain unpaid till this date as the agencies don’t release payments,” Grao added.
You can watch Diet Sabya’s video compilation of various models speaking out here:
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Update: We’ve been blocked. Comments have been turned off. Models have been blocked on whatsapp. The bookers/handlers have washed their hands off of this and categorically asked the models to contact the Delhi-based agency owner. Clients/brands/lawyers — discuss? . . @dsimrock @pedrosoltz @arlettegrao @joriamsterdam @giri_damayanti @sharvibhujbal7 @salonimisra @abhi.jeet_singh @sonakshisinghrawat @gauravsonawanee @seeratmast #tfmmodels #dietsabya #indianmodels #fashion
TFM/360 India’s response
In a written statement mailed to LiveWire, Soni’s representative writes: “Ashish Soni, on behalf of TFM/360 India, reassures everyone that TFM/360 India shall clear its dues as soon as possible as has also been done in the past.”
According to him, from 2018 till date, TFM/360 India has paid Rs 2.65 crore to various models as fee.
However, with no clarity over the exact date of payment, some models plan to file a police complaint against the agency and take legal action. Others had already sent legal notices to the agency.
Soni also says that he had invested a 40% share into TFM/360 India holding along with the main foreign investor, who pulled out in 2018, leaving the company struggling. “The company tried to recover as much as it could, but due to the fact that TFM/360 India was owed a great deal of money and such money was not recovered within a considerable amount of time, the financial and economic health of the company worsened,” wrote his representative.
He adds that the management was never in Soni’s hands and that there were other professionals running the company. They also came to know that some clients had also not released the money in the due course of time.
And now, when the main investor has left, Soni says he has been “taking steps to mitigate the damage caused by earlier mis-management”.