NY labor law shakes up model industry

Se Won Park, Contributing Writer

Christopher Minafo for WSN

The fashion industry is constantly undergoing changes. From the stylistic trends to the different popular color schemes that change seasonally, what is fashionable is temporary.

However, what is also transforming is how the fashion industry is being represented, specifically pertaining to who is presenting the designers’ creations. In previous years, the majority of models were in their 20s. Now, many models are starting their modeling careers in their early teens.

The fact that designers want younger models to showcase their clothes reflects the alteration in the standard of beauty and relates to the market for underage models that are involved with the fashion industry.

Child labor laws were enforced upon models who participated in this year’s New York Fashion Week for the first time. Part of these laws required young models, now defined as “child performers” by law, to work less hours.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law that categorizes models under 18 as child models. Due to this, underage models will now be under the Department of Labor, which will set new guidelines, including a mandatory 12 hour break in between work shifts, a midnight curfew on weekdays and other strict regulations.

Because designers are constantly searching for younger models for their smaller body measurements, this could trigger deeper controversy on the topic of beauty. As models are required to uphold the standards of being youthful and skinny, they contribute to the skewed perception that the public has on the idea of beauty.

The new law brought much dispute to the industry. While some thought using models despite their young age was unreasonable, others believe that the designers should lean towards using older, adult models.

Marc Jacobs is well-known for his persistent use of young girls, some only 14, in his shows, and has publicly stated that hiring underage models is not problematic because their parents give consent. Only time will tell if Jacobs will change his mind on using younger models due to the many restrictions and procedures in hiring them.

Regardless of whether designers are willing to hire young models for NYFW shows, the mandatory protection of such underage females sheds light on the continual portrayal of youth as the standard of beauty.

Se Won Park is a contributing writer. Email her at bstyle@nyunews.com.

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