How Children Are Exploited in the Fashion Industry, and How You Can Help Stop It


Outsiders often view the fashion industry as enchanting, attractive and alluring. The warm spotlights, the eager photographers, the glitzy music, the sensational clothes and the all the fame can all be enthralling for many, but the reality is very different for models operating within the industry. Some authors have discussed the persistent problem of sexual abuse while others have examined the horrible working conditions of models that are anything but glamorous.

While many have drawn our attention to some of the fundamental problems within the fashion industry, most forget that a huge chunk of it is actually child labor. As model Sara Wiff explained in an op-ed for the Guardian, "the modeling business today is unregulated and relies on a compliant labor force of children." Many have written about the infamous topless shoot that launched Kate Moss’ career. She was only 16 when she was threatened to lose her job if she didn't take off her top. She explains:

"They were like: If you don't do it, then we're not going to book you again. So I'd lock myself in the toilet and cry and then come out and do it. I never felt very comfortable about it."

Although this incident happened more than 20 years ago, Victoria Keon-Cohen, a model and founding chair of Equity's Models' says that "Nothing has really changed … Unfortunately what Kate is talking about does still happen and has happened to me." While child actors, dancers and singers are protected by the Department of Labour regulations, children who are fashion models aren't. 

That’s why the Model Alliance has launched a petition calling the Department of Labor to offer underage models "the same regulations that protect all other child performers in New York. The petition states:

"Fashion models and only fashion models are excluded from the protection afforded by the Department of Labor. Instead, models below the age of 18 who appear in print ads or walk the runways during Fashion Week, fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Education and are afforded only modest protections, specifically with regard to working hours, which are rarely observed or enforced."


Children are a vulnerable group that deserves protection. Sign the petition and join the conversation on Twitter following the hashtag #askagirlmodel to hear about experiences, and to chat with activists, models, educators, and lawyers about labor rights violations in the fashion industry. 

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