Fashion industry veterans call for better working conditions, fair compensation

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Fashion industry veterans call for better working conditions, fair compensation
Fashion industry veterans call for better working conditions, fair compensation


NEW YORK — Fashion Week is underway. It’s a huge economic driver for New York, but behind the scenes, many say they are not being fairly compensated. 

CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge spoke to models and creatives calling for better working conditions.

This week is all about the catwalk, the cameras and, of course, the clothes.

“The energy’s amazing,” one person said.

But if you go beyond the glitz and glamour, you’ll meet thousands of freelance and gig workers — models, hair stylists, makeup artists — trying to make it in an unregulated industry.

“Payment not on time, not even payment at all sometimes,” model Dorothy Grant told CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge.

“As freelancers, that’s really dangerous for us,” makeup artist Stirling Tall said.

“It takes us months, if not years, to get paid,” supermodel Karen Elson said.

Elson says it took years to learn how to navigate the business. Now, she and other veterans want to make it more seamless for the young men and women just starting out.

“It relies on the labor force of mostly young, immigrant girls, who are often working in debt to their management agencies,” said Sara Ziff, founder of the Model Alliance.

Ziff says the fashion industry in New York City employs approximately 180,000 people — 6% of the city’s workforce — and generates $2 billion in tax revenues for the state.

But most models and creatives work through management companies that are not licensed.

“Management companies really have no obligations to the people they represent,” Ziff said.

A new bill, the Fashion Workers Act, was put forward to create basic protections for fashion’s creative workforce.  

“It forces management companies to cap their fees … and abide by New York state labor protections,” Sen. Brad Hoylman said.

Models are also asking for safer workplaces and regulations on how castings are held.

Ambra Battilana-Gutierrez was one of dozens of women to accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual abuse.

“A lot of times, models are underage, alone … There should be more than two people present in a casting, maybe also a woman in there,” she said. 

Members of the Model Alliance say they will continue to champion fair treatment across the full fashion industry.

Meanwhile, the Fashion Workers Act is still working its way through New York state legislature.


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