Podcast Ep. 42, SARA ZIFF, FASHION, ME TOO & THE MODEL ALLIANCE
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EPISODE 42 FEATURES SARA ZIFF
Sara Ziff is the founding director of the Model Alliance. She is a campaigner for a fairer, more sustainable fashion industry in general, and for the rights of models in particular.
This Episode was recorded during the Copenhagen Fashion Summit - Sara was there with model Edie Campbell and casting director James Scully to speak about the RESPECT Program. It launched with an open letter signed by more than 100 fashion models in the wake of Me Too, calling for fashion houses, media companies and model agencies to commit to “an orderly and fair process for addressing charges of abuse”, backed up with training and education initiatives.
The letter begins: “Over the past year, many courageous individuals have revealed the dark truth of sexual harassment in the fashion industry. These concerns have yet to be addressed in a meaningful and sustainable way. As models our images serve commercial purposes but our bodies remain ours.”
Proposals include stronger, enforceable workplace standards to protect underage models and ensure, for example, that they are never asked to pose nude without prior agreement; a confidential and secure complaints process; and a neutral body set up to investigate complaints. Sara says, “1 in 5 models is working in debt to her agency,” so this is not only an issue of sexual intimidation, misconduct and abuse, it’s a power issue.
This is an important topic and one the industry urgently needs to address. What's being done about it? How is Sara trying to change the fashion world, and where does the urge to do that come from in her? How did she go from walking for Chanel and Alexander McQueen to being a VOICE FOR CHANGE?
LINKS & FURTHER READING...
In Feb 2018, NY fashion week introduced private change rooms for models for the first time. Reports TIME magazine, "In the wake of concerns surrounding the treatment of models, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) announced on Tuesday that it has partnered with advocacy group the Model Alliance to create the safe spaces."
JAMES SCULLY is a casting director and a beautiful soul. He speaks out about injustice in fashion on all levels, while so many others keep silent. In February 2017, he called out BALENCIAGA for allowing models to wait for a casting for 3 hours locked in a stairwell. Seriously. That happened. VOGUE had this to say:
"The latest whistle-blower to send shock waves through the industry is the veteran casting director James Scully who, with an incendiary Instagram post on Monday, is bringing a new level of scrutiny on the working conditions for fashion models at top events like Paris Fashion Week. Scully called out Lanvin by claiming the brand issued a “mandate” to casting directors that they “do not want to be presented with women of color.” He also criticized by name Balenciaga’s casting directors, Maida Gregori Boina and Rami Fernandes, for an incident in which models were allegedly locked in a dark stairway for over three hours."
CAMERON RUSSELL is another inspirational fashion activist who has been speaking out about abuse in the industry. Follow her in Instagram here.
The whole Harvey Weinstein debacle. Ug, anyway. Here's the timeline.
In January, the NYT broke its fashion-world-jolting allegations about BRUCE WEBER and Mario Testino. Read it here
The CONDE NAST code of conduct includes shoot guidelines: "Photo and video shoots must be professional environments. Any disrespectful or inappropriate conduct toward others, including but not limited to that based on an individual’s sex, race, colour, weight, body shape, size, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, marital or domestic-partnership status, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression, will not be tolerated." Read the code in full here.
In September 2017, Kering and Louis Vuitton came together to create a charter to protect the WELLBEING OF MODELS. "Respecting the dignity of every man and woman is at the heart of both group’s values. Having always cared for the well-being of models, LVMH and Kering feel that they have a specific responsibility, as leaders in the industry, to go one step further with their brands." The charter includes sample size minimums banning the ultra-tiny French women's size 32. It's a start...
It was making her movie Picture Me, that started Sara thinking carefully about models rights and how the industry needs to change. No wonder The Fast Company just named here one if its Most Creative People 2018. Sara is 100 kinds of awesome basically. Follow her on Instagram here.
Body image and eating disorders are also big issues in the modelling industry. Sara and the Model Alliance frame this as a labour issue. Do agencies pressure models to lose weight? The answer is yes.
"THIS IS FUNDAMENTALLY ABOUT A POWER IMBALANCE BETWEEN THE MODELS ON ONE SIDE AND THE DESIGNERS AND THE AGENCIES ON THE OTHER. NO ONE SHOULD HAVE TO SACRIFICE THEIR HEALTH FOR THEIR JOB." - SARA ZIFF
Here's Sara on D&G runway Spring '04
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