Underage Models
(Photo by Carlo Allegri, Reuters)

by Nicole Allen

Over the past few decades, models who participate in New York’s prestigious Mercedes Benz Fashion Week have been looking younger every year. Some girls as young as 12-years-old have been working during fashion week for top designers, such as Betsy Johnson and Tory Burch. These children work strenuous hours, are poorly nourished, sleep deprived, and underpaid.

However, the New York State Legislature, the Council of Fashion Designer Association (CFDA), and Model Alliance have decided to take action to decrease mistreatment of child models. This past November, the New York State Legislature unanimously passed a bill to include models as a part of the existing protections for child performers. The law passed after this previous fashion week in February.

Because it is now more difficult for designers to work with younger models, this year’s fashion week featured models older than the ones who walked the runway in recent years. These designers must go through many hurdles to legally use models under the age of 18. Designers must first fill out a form from the New York State Department of Labor. This document shows the child is psychologically and physically stable to work. The form must be filled out and handed into the office 48 hours prior to the job.

The designers then have to provide chaperones and breaks when using an underage model; these breaks include time to eat a well-balanced meal and to concentrate on school work. The law also only allows child models to work for a maximum of 10 hours a day with breaks in between.

Though this law causes many hurdles for designers, it’s great for the models and for the fashion industry. Younger models no longer have to choose between school or a career in fashion. Before this law, over half of the models that tried to make it in the fashion industry dropped out or held off on their schooling to launch their fashion careers.

Older models also benefit from this law because there is now more work available to them, increasing their careers.

The entirety of the fashion industry benefits from this law as well. Girls are no longer wearing women’s clothing, but women are wearing women’s clothing–a huge deal in the fashion industry.

Though the new provisions for the child labor law are great for models and the fashion industry, it causes designers to jump more hurdles. However, most American designers don’t mind this new law. In fact, many designers are actually embracing the law. The CFDA and the Council of Fashion Designers of America have their own provisions to the law, such as refusing to use any model under the age of 16.

As of right now, New York is the only state that includes models in their child labor laws. However, maybe other states, or even other countries, will consider implementing this law.