You may not know it, given the way they tower over their peers and exude a confidence beyond their years, but underage models aren't adults. They just aren't. If they're going to work, they need hand-holding and extra care. New York State is now giving them that in the form of legal protections.
It's been a long time coming, but late last night New York State governor Andrew Cuomo signed a sweeping set of laws aimed at providing children in the fashion and modeling industries the same protections enjoyed by other young performers. For example, designers and labels hiring models under the age of 16 for shoots or shows will be required to supply an on-site nurse and teacher per model, and they must set aside at least 15% of the model's pay in a trust. This is on top of a cap on the hours they can work, the amount of time between sessions, and how late they can be used.
A teary-eyed Coco Rocha said in a news conference, “Having once been a child model myself, I know all too well that, until now, underage models have worked with very few legal protections in New York. The fashion industry's attempts at self-regulation have not been enough to ensure a safe working environment across the board for its minor models."
Instrumental in creating the language of the law, former model and Model Alliance founder Sara Ziff postulated that "the legislation could have a powerful, far-reaching effect. In addition to safeguarding young models, it will influence the images the industry creates, which could help promote a healthier ideal of beauty. I look forward to building on this success by continuing to promote fair labor standards in our industry."
Other supes have weighed in, too. “It seems incredible that young kids in the modeling industry haven't had equal rights to other child performers until now," said Milla Jovovich. "Thank goodness for the Model Alliance and Sara Ziff's inexhaustible perseverance in getting this bill passed." The English model Karen Elson chimed, “I started modeling when I was 15 years old. I traveled to many different places alone without a chaperone or with any real legal rights. The reality is most models start their careers as teenagers. Congratulations Sara and to all at the Model Alliance."
It remains to be seen if houses will abide by the new laws or look the other way when the fall collections roll around in February, or if other fashion capitals will follow suit. We think we know the answer to both.