Will Child Models Be Fewer At The Upcoming New York Fashion Week?
In less than a month, New York Fashion Week will be underway. Including both the IMG produced Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and numerous other independent productions, New York Fashion Week is an eight-day event during which designers showcase their international fashion collections to buyers, the press, and the public. New York Fashion Week is a twice-annual celebration full of glitz and glamour, a tradition rooted in the City since 1943 for those who work in, support, or simply adore the industry. Fashion Week this spring, however, is likely to bring about a change: a decrease in child models.
During previous Fashion Weeks, child models were regulated under § 35.05 of the Arts & Cultural Affairs Law. As of November 20th, 2013, however, child models working or living in New York are now covered by Labor Law and regulations as Child Performers. Prior to their inclusion as Child Performers, child models were required to obtain a work permit and some limitations existed as to the hours the children were allowed to work. Particularly for child models working in adult roles, even these few requirements were often not enforced and unfortunately protection was hardly realized. The protection afforded to child models as Child Performers is much more robust; this protection includes not only Child Performer Permit requirements but also educational, trust account, and other supervisory requirements.
Like children in other performance industries, child models are placed in an adult world and often their innocence and vulnerability are either entirely forgotten or worse, purposefully taken advantage of. Including models in the definition of Child Performers should increase the welfare and safety of child models, while still allowing them to participate in this very adult industry. For one, requiring child models have a “responsible person” to look after them protects them from abuse, not only physical and sexual but also emotional. Setting up trust accounts for each child model will prevent others from taking advantage of the young model’s hard work and protect the model from herself, while she may be too young and immature to appreciate the value of the money she is earning. Although the education requirement may pose special issues for child models as compared to other child performers who hold jobs with a single client for an extended period of time, hopefully the labor department will still enforce this provision so that child models are provided with tutors and do not sacrifice their education at the expense of what may be a short-lived career.
For model management companies, agents, and clients the inclusion of child models as Child Performers, at the most fundamental level, means paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. Will the extra effort of going through all this initial paperwork and then subsequent patrol and oversight by the New York State Department of Labor push the industry away from the use of child models? At a panel discussion and information session held by the Fashion Law Institute, industry members answered the above question with a resounding, and hopeful, yes. The effort of filling out a plethora of papers and complying with the new law may be worth it for a few exceptional minors, but perhaps the trend will be to limit the use of child models to just that—the exceptional few. By extending statutory protection to child models as Child Performers, New York has made “a move that could change the face of Fashion Week and beyond.” While the effects of the modified law may not yet have been realized, Fashion Week will certainly be a significant event to notice industry change in the use of child models.