Model Sara Ziff recently gave the world an inside view of the often disgraceful conditions that models are forced to work under with her documentary Picture Me. She also took a deeper look into the subject through a series of videos she made specifically for the Cut during Fashion Week.
Sara is working to create The Model Alliance to give models a unified voice so they can demand better working conditions. She has gathered a group of advisors from Fordham University’s Fashion Law Institute to set up a code of conduct and standards for the modeling industry.
Says Sara about the need for standards within the industry:
“The modeling industry is essentially unregulated. As independent contractors, models don’t have the same basic workplace protection as a lot of other industries do. They don’t have workmen’s compensation. They often don’t have access to affordable health coverage. There are no provisions for rest and meal breaks [during work hours]. There is little recourse for issues of sexual harassment and sexual abuse. And a lot of modeling agencies have a huge amount of power over international girls because they sponsor their visas.”
In the documentary model Amy Lemons tells Sara that when she was 17, her agent told her to “eat one rice cake a day and if that didn’t work only half a rice cake,” and she’s seen young girls dipping cotton balls in juice and eating them. Lemons added, “there are no rules or regulations…it’s still like the Wild Wild West,” and remarked that, “the CFDA needs to do a lot more than what they’re doing right now.”
Sara, who is a senior at Columbia, is planning to cut back her own work as a model to focus her time on establishing the Alliance. She is working closely with the Fashion Law Institute to set up a special clinic where models can discuss their issues and needs.