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How Will the New Model Law Affect New York Fashion Week Next Season?

Image: IMAXtree

Image: IMAXtree

Last night, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill closing the legal loophole which treats under-18 models differently from other child performers. The legislation was lobbied for by The Model Alliance, a labor organization which was founded in February 2012 by former model (turned documentarian) Sara Ziff. From the outset, Ziff counted both top models (like Coco Rocha) and New York's most influential fashion institutions (like Vogue and the CFDA) among her supporters. The new law, which represents The Model Alliance's first legal victory, goes into effect in 30 days.

This afternoon, the CFDA issued an advisory to members, explaining how the new regulations might impact casting for next season's New York Fashion Week shows. Designers who wish to hire models younger than 18* will have to abide by a strict set of rules. 

A breakdown of the new rules, via the CFDA website:

  • Requirements of filing paperwork with the state
  • Limiting the work hours of models who are minors and letting them leave before midnight on school nights or 12:30 a.m. on weekends
  • Making sure that 15% of the model’s fee is put in a trust account until he or she is 18
  • Making sure that models do not miss 3 or more consecutive days of school without providing a tutor
  • For models under 16 (who would violate the CFDA Health Initiative rules for runway but might be used for junior or children’s lines, for example), must provide a chaperone

For designers who hope to continue casting their shows with underage girls, the new time constraints will pose a challenge — models report working long, late hours during fashion week. Last year, Jezebel uncovered the Tumblr of a 17-year-old model who described her grueling fashion week schedule — which included working over 30 hours, unpaid, for Marc Jacobs ahead of his NYFW show, often until 2 or 4 a.m. in the morning. 

This August we spoke with a producer at who suggested that under the new legislation, the challenges associated with hiring underage models might amplify the cachet of youth, tempting designers to bend the rules to work with super-young models: "A girl is a new type of special if a brand is willing to use her and just pay the fine. Ideally everyone will mind their P's and Q's, though. "

*As part of the organization's health initiative, the CFDA advises designers not hire models under 16, but doesn't enforce its guidelines. In fact, last year Marc Jacobs (a CFDA board member) was heavily criticized but faced no other repercussions when he cast two underage models in his Fall 2013 show.