Last year New York state did a little regulating of the modeling industry. Good.
The New York State Legislature approved a measure Wednesday night that would recognize fashion models under the age of 18 as child performers for print and runway work, a step that has the potential, if signed into law, to alter not only hiring practices in the fashion industry, but also the overall look of models appearing at Fashion Week.
As it stands, the majority of models start their careers well under 18, with some young women appearing in runway shows when they are 13 or 14. Reacting to concerns about the health and well-being of such young models, the Council of Fashion Designers of America has repeatedly urged its members to set a minimum age of 16 for runway models. Though most designers have complied, there are still examples of extremely young models on New York runways, and no significant workplace protections for those under 18.
Never mind health and well-being; they get glamour!
“There is tremendous pressure on girls who are still in high school,” said Sara Ziff, a former model who started an advocacy group called the Model Alliance, which worked with legislators on the proposed changes to child labor laws. “I know firsthand how models can be pressured to forgo their education and sometimes are put on the spot to take photos that may be age inappropriate.”
But it’s such a dream job. If they can be models, who cares about their education?
“This is the day that modeling moved from being a girls’ profession to a women’s profession,” said Susan Scafidi, the academic director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham University. “There is no doubt models who have started at 14 have gone on to great careers, but it’s just too young to be subjected to this industry.”
Wait; stop right there. That thing she said is one reason so many girls see this as a career plan. It implies that it’s common for models to have great careers, but that’s like implying it’s common for aspiring actors to have great careers. Most don’t. The glamour industries get way more aspirants than there are great careers for them. People should be cluing these girls in.
Ms. Ziff also said she suspected that designers will be less inclined to hire young models. “I don’t think that would be such a bad thing,” she said. “Designers are marketing their clothes to adults, so I think that would be appropriate.”
Modeling agencies, which have for decades resisted attempts to regulate ages, are likely to disagree to some extent. But complaints about the standards of beauty being set by their industries in regard to weight, race and age have prompted many prominent agents and designers to advocate some form of protection for models.
How about a union?