Fordham Law


Sara Ziff says models need legal protections, workplace rights, access to health insurance

Sara Ziff in NYDailyNews, December 21, 2010

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BY LINDSAY GOLDWERT

Model Sara Ziff shed some stark light on the modeling industry with her documentary film "Picture Me" - but now she wants to do more.

She wants to create legal protections.

Ziff is working with Fordham University's Fashion Law Institute and the Model Alliance to establish a professional code of conduct to protect models, reports Women's Wear Daily.

Behind the glamorous veil of the industry there is exploitation - no access to health coverage, no workman's comp and scant recourse for sexual harassment and abuse, Ziff told WWD.

"The modeling industry is essentially unregulated," Ziff said. "There are no provisions for rest and meal breaks [during work hours]. And a lot of modeling agencies have a huge amount of power over international girls because they sponsor their visas."

"Picture Me", the 83-minute film, shot by Ziff and her co-director (and then-boyfriend) Ole Schell over five years, made waves when it premiered on the heels of Fashion Week in September.

The documentary is a behind-the-scenes look at photo shoots, runway shows and the fashion industry's biggest parties. The two started shooting with flip cams when Ziff, now 27, was 18 and embarking on her full-time modeling career and Schell was a film student at NYU.

"I think one of the reasons the film is so compelling is because we are showing footage that we never thought anyone else would ever see," said Ziff, who has walked in shows for Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Marc Jacobs. "It was only over time that we realized we had some really unique footage of a world that is so kept under wraps.

Ziff, now a Columbia University senior, is not suggesting a union for models since previous efforts to formally organize have failed.

Rather, she wants models to expect safe conditions in the workplace.

"I want this film to provoke a meaningful discussion in general, but I'd love if it could happen in the industry itself," Ziff told the Daily News. "The people who can change the way models are treated are the ones who need to see this film."