Protecting Models in the Fashion Industry

There is a huge focus on the missteps that are currently happening in the fashion industry, from a lack of sustainability to unethical treatment of garment workers. As the year is coming to an end, we are taking some time to look back at other types of legal issues that occurred.

One issue that is pressing is the mistreatment of young fashion models. Over the year we saw allegations come out of Paris Fashion Week about the mistreatment of Balenciaga  models. In addition to this, accusations of discrimination based on race and body type were prominent.

Researchers from Northeastern University, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the Model Alliance collaborated on a recent study that revealed the pressure models face to lose weight. In fact, 81% of the models that participated in the study were identified as underweight. The study also highlighted the use of unhealthy behaviours, such as skipping meals, the use of diet pills, and the abuse of stimulants for weight loss.

In addition to issues with body image, some spoke out about the abuse perpetrated against models. Christy Burlington, featured above, is a veteran in the industry who recently discussed how mistreatment is prevalent and tolerated in the fashion world. She says that there are people who thrive on the “constant rejection and loneliness” that so many models experience in their careers.

So, what can be done to address these issues?

It is clear that there needs to be a transformation in how designers and agencies think about models. An even more intriguing question is:

Does this burden fall on society or on our legal systems?

We have previously wrote about Anti-Photoshop laws in France that require any advertisements to state when photos have been retouched. The intent behind this law is to help improve the health of those who interact with these ads and are influenced by unrealistic body images.

While we love the backbone that the law gives to this issue, we argue that this may not be enough. Even though someone may be aware that they are looking at a retouched photo, it may not be enough to explain that the images are unrealistic and that not every man or woman resembles images from posters or billboards. This issue requires more than just legal influence, but support from a variety of institutions to empower young men and women.

In regard to mistreatment of models, New York has been working on a Bill that will help protect models against sexual harassment. The aim of the Bill, introduced by Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, is to break the wall of protection that has been built around those in the industry who continue to victimize models with no repercussions.

So, while the law slowly steps in to place some restrictions on those who may directly or indirectly harm models in the fashion industry, we think that some effort is required to actually change the mindset of individuals. Other than legal repercussions, we would like to see new methods of advertising in the industry that highlight the diversity of men and women, in regard to race and body type. Companies that we have highlighted, such as Girlfriend Collective, have done an amazing job with this! Seeing different types of people modelling our clothing may make it a norm for the industry and help empower young men and women!

Information and Image Gathered From: Forbes IWomen’s Wear Daily IWomen’s Wear Daily II.

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