Just four years after Equity expanded their union representation to include models, we are delighted to see that the organisation has gone one step further and signed The Equity Ten Point Code of Conduct in partnership with British Vogue.
The first of its kind in the industry, models working on location or on photo shoots with Vogue will now be protected against workplace violations. Some of the requirements under the code may seem overly cautious, like mandating breaks every few hours or access to toilets and private changing areas. But, those exist because previously these weren't guaranteed to young women on set. Sure, models often have a glamorous life, but they are also subject to wealth of harsh conditions, including working up to 20 hours without eating or even drinking, and more disconcerting, facing pressure to adhere to anything the photographer mandates on set, whether it's something the model may find offensive or a "surprise" nude scene. #ModelProblems aside, these things are clearly not okay.
To address these sorts of issues, Sara Ziff formed the Model Alliance, which gives models an anonymous outlet to air grievances both physical and emotional. She notes her reason for forming the Alliance is rooted in "how the industry often disregards child-labor law, lacks financial transparency, encourages eating disorders, and blindly tolerates sexual abuse in the workplace. The lucrative careers of high-profile supermodels misrepresent the reality for most working models, who are young, mostly female, and uniquely vulnerable."
This is especially true of underage models, who are now further protected under the code in that they cannot model as an adult, cannot be nude or semi-nude, and must be accompanied by a parent or an adult with CRB clearance.
It is important to remember that this code applies only to photo shoots for Vogue, and does not include that most tiring of times — the major Fashion Weeks. But Vogue's Alexandra Shulman says she has adopted this policy in hopes that it will soon become the industry-wide standard, and indeed it should.
All of which leads us to wonder: If the code does make its way through the industry, will models actually benefit from these changes, or will they continue to adhere to former working conditions for fear of losing work? Who will be responsible for enforcing these changes on a larger scale? To be sure, the code is a solid step forward, and we give Equity and Vogue major props for creating it — but as the regulations become integrated into the day-to-day of life in the industry, there needs to be consistency in both enforcement.
Photo: Via British Vogue