With all their long-legged wonder and thin-as-pins glory, it’s easy to forget that models are people too. For one thing, when they don’t eat enough, they die. Sometimes they’re teens who make bad choices and girls who deal with sexual harassment. They also like things like water and getting paid for their work. It’s a lack of basic workers’, and sometimes human rights that has spurred fashion councils around the world to act in defense of models.
In 2007, Montreal Fashion Week banned underweight models and those under the age of 16 from walking the runway. That same year, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) released guidelines for models at New York Fashion Week (NYFW) that encouraged age minimums and healthy bodies. Since then, the CFDA has also received pledges from top modeling agencies – including DNA, Elite, Ford IMG, and Next – not to send any models younger than 16 to shows.
In March, Israel passed a law that prohibits fashion designers and media from using models that fall below the World Health Organization’s standard for malnutrition. London Fashion Week (LFW) designers sign a contract with the British Fashion Council (BFC) to use models who are at least 16, and the major fashion organizations in Spain and Italy also ban models who fall below a certain Body Mass Index level.
In Toronto? Crickets.
The FDCC’s website conspicuously lacks any mention of models, let alone guidelines that mention age, weight, or any other initiative to protect models. While media in other countries are quick to raise concerns over models’ rights, our media is remarkably silent. Is it simply because there isn’t a problem here? Or are we overlooking the issue thanks to good ol’ Canadian “that doesn’t happen here” naïveté?
“In the past, change rooms were very exposed. So anybody could walk through and watch 15 or 16-year-old models ripping their shirts off between sets,” says Dan Grant, publisher of ModelResource.ca and an agent for Next Models. “There were people who were contracted to do maintenance stuff, but they were always walking through the change area between shows and often had their cell phones out. I’m positive that they were taking photos.”