Models form rights group ahead of New York Fashion Week

Mon Feb 6, 2012 9:08pm EST
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fashion models in the United States launched a rights group on Monday ahead of New York Fashion Week to seek workplace standards including backstage privacy to stop unauthorized nude photos and a program to provide confidential advice on dealing with sexual harassment.

Model Sara Ziff, 29, who has worked since she was 14, founded the nonprofit Model Alliance because she said she has seen the industry disregard child labor laws, evade financial transparency and tolerate sexual abuse in the workplace.

"Most models start their adult careers as minors and they labor in an unregulated business knowing that they are highly replaceable," Ziff said in a statement.

The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) said it had offered Ziff advice in starting the group. "Change comes from action and the Model Alliance can be a catalyst for change," said CFDA chief executive Steven Kolb.

Designer Diane von Furstenberg, president of the CFDA, is working with the alliance during Fashion Week, a high-profile global fashion event which starts on Thursday, to implement a rule that clears the backstage area of photographers and non-essential staff when models have to change clothes.

Australian "plus-size" model Robyn Lawley, 22, described the Model Alliance as an amazing idea.

"So many young girls get into this industry and they have no one to protect them and having this model alliance will help girls realize they have the power, they can say no to things that make them feel uncomfortable," Lawley said at the launch.

"I started modeling when I was 16 and I went off to shoots by myself. My parents weren't there and sometimes you do feel very uncomfortable," she said. "You don't really talk about it. If you say anything you won't get another job."   Continued...