- Bad news today from across the pond: Erin O’Connor has announced that the Model Sanctuary at London Fashion Week will not operate this season. The supermodel, a prominent supporter of the models’ union that exists in the United Kingdom and a campaigner for models’ health and well-being, has organized a Model Sanctuary at LFW every season since 2008. At the Sanctuary, models could learn about their rights, talk to one another, receive career and educational counseling, make contact with a variety of health-care professionals, and do fun things like get a massage — all free of charge. The Sanctuary also served simply as a space where models could go just to have a rest between shows, fittings, and castings. O’Connor says “reasons beyond [her] control” led to the closure, including the loss of key sponsors and difficulties securing an appropriate space. “I urge the fashion industry, its partners and key stakeholders to help us secure a permanent home during London Fashion Week, so that we can continue our valuable work,” says O’Connor. “It is absolutely vital that we prioritise the welfare of young people within our industry.” [Vogue UK]
- In other fashion industry labor news today, a former intern for Harper’s Bazaar is suing the magazine’s parent company, Hearst, for allegedly violating the law by failing to pay her minimum wage. Unpaid internships are common in fashion — whether in publishing, design, or public relations — but the letter of the law states that an unpaid internship must be of significant educational value, equivalent to job training, to the intern in order to be legal. Unpaid interns are not employees, and therefore they are not supposed to perform the duties of an employee; the employer is not supposed to derive any benefit or advantage from an unpaid intern’s labor. An Ohio State University graduate named Xuedan Wang alleges that Harper’s Bazaar violated the law by having her work 40 to 55 hours a week for five months, doing typically employee-like things such as tracking samples and scheduling deliveries. The lawsuit argues:
“Employers’ failure to compensate interns for their work, and the prevalence of the practice nationwide, curtails opportunities for employment, fosters class divisions between those who can afford to work for no wage and those who cannot, and indirectly contributes to rising unemployment.”
Developing. [New York Times]
Jenna Sauers is the Editor of the Model Alliance’s Daily Feed, which keeps models informed of labor issues in the fashion industry. Jenna is a former model who now works primarily as a journalist covering the fashion industry. She blogs for Jezebel, and has written for publications including the New York Times, the New York Observer, and Jalouse. Jenna is a 2007 graduate of the University of Iowa, with a B.A. in French and English literature.
Sign the Petition
Children working in entertainment are uniquely vulnerable and need protection.
Give Child Models The Same Legal Protections As All Child Performers
To: The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of New York State
To: Eric Schneiderman, Attorney General of New York State
To: Peter M. Rivera, Commissioner of the New York State Dept. of Labor
To: Dr. John B. King, Jr., Commissioner of the New York State Dept. of Education
Children working as professionals in the entertainment industry are uniquely vulnerable and need legal protection. Unfortunately, however, not all child performers can claim equal protection under the laws of New York State. This is why we are asking for your help -- to ensure that child models are afforded the same level of protection afforded to all other child performers working in New York.
Currently, the Department of Labor regulates and protects all child performers working in New York, with one notable exception. The regulations do not extend to child models who perform print and runway work. Fashion models--and only fashion models--are excluded from the protection afforded by the Department of Labor. Instead, models below the age of 18 who appear in print ads or walk the runways during Fashion Week, fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Education and are afforded only modest protections, specifically with regard to working hours, which are rarely observed or enforced. In fact, violations of the existing laws governing the use of child models are so frequent and widespread that some models have likened New York’s modeling industry to the “Wild West.” And even these modest and mostly unenforced provisions fall significantly short of what is afforded by the Department of Labor.
For most models who start as children in this profession, this issue is personal. At the age of 14, when many professional print and runway models start their careers, a model is unprepared to deal with inappropriate demands from adults in positions of authority, like photographers, agents and clients, who may pressure them to pose nude or semi-nude, give in to sexual demands or engage in risky behavior including, starvation dieting, working long hours without pay and forfeiting high school. For many young models working today, bowing to these pressures often feels less like a choice than a prerequisite for employment. And without regulations mandating the completion of at least some level of education and the provision of on-set tutors, many young models will forego their education entirely to pursue short-lived careers, only to wind up earning little or no money and incurring substantial start-up costs often amounting to tens of thousands of dollars of debt to their modeling agencies.
Most models begin their careers as children, but they do not receive the same legal protections as other child performers who are covered by regulations providing for chaperones, tutors and trust accounts. It’s time for that to change. I hope that the legislature will finally protect child models. Will you join me by signing this petition?
Sara Ziff , Founder & Director of the Model Alliance
Girl Model Team, www.girlmodelthemovie.com
Chris Gay, President of Marilyn Model Management
Carre Otis, Board Member of the Model Alliance
Alan Gordon, National Executive Director of AGMA
Doreen Small, Adjunct Professor at the Fashion Law Institute
Dorian Warren, Assistant Professor of American Politics at Columbia University
Flora Stamatiades, National Director of Organizing at Actors' Equity
Meredith Hattam, Board Member of the Model Alliance
Rachel Blais, Board Member of the Model Alliance
Susan Scafidi, Director of the Fashion Law Institute
Tracy Murphy, Board Member of the Model Alliance
Milla Jovovich, Board Member of the Model Alliance
Chris Brenner, Managing Agent
Amy Lemons, Board Member of the Model Alliance
Kalpona Akter, BCWS
Sumi Abedin, BCWS
*For more information on current laws, please visit www.modelalliance.org/child-models
**To view proposed regulations, please visit http://labor.ny.gov/legal/laws/pdf/child-performer-regulations/part186-child-performer.pdf