Rumours of racism at New York Fashion Week have emerged and we are waiting to see what it will be like at London Fashion Week, due to open next week. At the weekend The Guardian magazine had an interview with supermodel Naomi Campbell who has been extremely frank about racism in the industry.
"Young models come up to me and tell me they are not getting the jobs" says Naomi, whose ice queen attitude is often seen as rather inappropriate for a woman of colour - would she be criticised for it if she were white, wonders the interviewer?
Amidst all this controversy surrounding one the most important fashion events in the year and the concerns it raises it is great news to hear that the retailer NEXT has signed the 10 point code proposed by Equity Models. Equity is the performers union in the UK and its models network is expanding.
Sure, we still have a lot more work to do to see the code honoured on the catwalk but let's celebrate this achievement. NEXT is following Debenhams in this move to acknowledge the rights of models and it is good to see that retailers are getting the message. It will soon be fashion magazines that will follow this trend. I am speaking here as a model fully involved with the Equity model network. We need to see changes in the way modelling is perceived and models are treated.
But what is the 10 point code? What are the demands of models, as professionals in one of the largest industries on the globe?
The 10 point code is a code of conduct for the treatment of models during shoots, drawn up by members of the Equity models committee. Remember that the vast majority of fashion models are teenagers, often away from home and needing mentoring and protection. Kate Moss did discuss her discomfort at having to pose nude at 16, definitely under-age, just as Naomi Campbell opened up about racism. They are top professionals who managed to carve superlative careers for themselves but even these supermodels have had to endure the demeaning attitudes which are rife in this industry and which Equity is attempting to eradicate.
The 10 point code is about making sure that models have sufficient breaks during shoots, that adequate meals should be provided, that travel expenses should be reimbursed if the studio is over 10 miles distance from the model's home and taxis made available if shoots go on after 10 pm, that models should be treated with dignity and respect, that no changes to their appearance should be made eg a long haired model should not be forced to have a haircut during a shoot without previously seeking consent, that nudity should be negotiated prior to a shoot and not requested of under-age models, that models should be given adequate changing room facilities, that the environment should be warm - models often shoot wearing little clothing in freezing weather conditions, that insurance should be provided and, last but not least, prompt payment. Models, especially those young girls who come from overseas,with no family around them, often get into debt with their agency as a result of delayed payments.
There are special clauses for models under 16, who are legally children, and who should be treated in accordance with the Statutory Regulations that apply to Child Entertainers.
I am often astounded that people do not think about such basic requirements, which would be accorded to any other professional, in relation to models. Most people do not even think that modelling is a proper job!
Let's make modelling a safe and dignified profession and let's get rid of stigmas and abuses.