On Wednesday, New York lawmakers voted unanimously to pass a law that recognizes models as child performers, affording them the same protections actors, dancers, and musicians under the age of 18 have had for ages.
Proposed by Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein and State Senate Labor Committee Chairwoman Diane Savino, the law adds "print and runway models" to the list of child performers protected by strict Department of Labor regulations. Under these laws, designers who hire print and runway models under the age of 18 will now have to put a portion of the model's earnings into a trust, and hire chaperones and tutors for the girls on set. (The law is expected to affect female models more than male models, who tend to start their careers a little older.)
This is also a significant accomplishment for the Model Alliance, a non-union organization that works to improve working conditions for fashion models, which worked closely with lawmakers on the bill. Model Alliance Director Sara Ziff said this is the first piece of legislation the organization has introduced. And Model Alliance member and model Coco Rocha, who promoted the bill this week, is thrilled with the vote. "I could not be happier," she said. "If the Model Alliance never achieves anything else, this was monumental."
The law will result in a lot more paperwork for fashion houses wanting to hire young models. They'll now have to apply for a certificate to work with print or runway models younger than 18 and keep careful records of all minors they work with should the Department of Labor check in to make sure they're following the rules.
"I think it's a good law," Fordham Fashion Law Institute Director Susan Scafidi told BuzzFeed Fashion earlier this week. "It really means that a lot of fashion houses, a lot of designers are going to have to rethink their castings." Now they can't add a 17-year-old to a fashion show lineup the night before a show — if they want to hire 17-year-olds, they'll have to plan ahead and submit paperwork days in advance.
Violations will result in fines — up to $1,000 for the first offense, and $2,000 to $3,000 for second and third offenses. That's not a lot for a big, wealthy fashion brand, but the publicity they'd get for violating child labor laws would be much more damaging.
"Truly, I think the simplest and easiest response to this law is just hire 18-year-olds," Scafidi said.