New York Sets Work Rules for Young ModelsSusan Scafidi in The New York Times, October 22, 2013
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation on Monday night that will recognize fashion models under the age of 18 as child performers. The new law, which is expected to go into effect in 30 days, will have a significant impact on the casting of models for the next New York Fashion Week, in February.
Many designers will most likely be discouraged from using extremely young models in their shows because of the requirements of the law, including limits on the number of hours those models can work, as well as how late and how often they can be used. While there has been a trend in the last year of hiring more seasoned models (meaning those in their early 20s) after criticism of the modeling industry in recent years, it is still normal for most models to start their careers well under the age 18. The Council of Fashion Designers of America has urged its members to set a minimum age of 16 for runway models.
Reaction to the law, which was passed by the Legislature in June, has largely been positive. Sponsors of the bill, including State Senators Jeffrey D. Klein and Diane Savino, Democrats from New York City, planned to announce the bill’s signing at a news conference Tuesday morning, along with models including Coco Rocha and Arlenis Sosa. Sara Ziff, a former model who started an advocacy group called the Model Alliance, which has supported the passage of the law, is also expected to attend.
Susan Scafidi, the academic director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham University, said Tuesday that in terms of labor law and the fashion industry, “I’d argue that it’s one of the biggest developments in a century, bringing a whole new group under legal protection.”
The state Department of Labor will need to adapt many of its regulations regarding child performers to the modeling industry, but and the changes could be substantial. In guidelines prepared for designers as they began to digest the impact of the law, Ms. Scafidi noted that requirements could include multiple forms of paperwork to register the employment of underage models and monitoring their hours. Models under 18, for example, would not be allowed to work after midnight on a school night for fittings for a runway show, or return to work less than 12 hours after they leave. In some cases, designers would also be required to provide tutors, trust accounts and chaperones when using models under 18.
In the guidelines, Ms. Scafidi noted, “The easiest way to avoid fees, paperwork, monitoring and potential penalties is simply to use models 18 and over — and to ask the agencies and casting directors with whom you work to assist you in checking models’ ages.”