New York Fashion Week is almost here, and this year, it comes right in the midst of #MeToo, a movement exposing sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace that has rocked a number of prominent industries, fashion included. In recent months, models have come forward about abuse they’ve experienced, and a report in the New York Times detailed sexual misconduct allegations against photographers Mario Testino and Bruce Weber.
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But on Tuesday, the Council of Fashion Designers of America made an encouraging announcement: the CFDA is partnering with the non-profit Model Alliance to create private changing areas for models at NYFW. They will also be posting signs backstage that promote a safe work space.
Sara Ziff, founder of the Model Alliance, told ELLE.com in an email that she contacted the CFDA in January with a proposal to create these private areas. The CFDA then connected her with IMG and Pier 59, who oversee the main venues for the shows, to make it a reality.
“For years, models have expressed concerns about invasive photography while changing and lack of privacy backstage,” Ziff said. “In response, when we launched the Model Alliance, we encouraged casting directors and designers to ask anyone who was unnecessary to the show’s production to leave the backstage when ‘first looks’ are called. However, it can be kind of a free-for-all backstage and, without designated people on site to enforce this, these efforts weren’t very successful. That’s why, this season, I proposed that we build changing areas where models can change clothes in privacy.”
It’s a step in the right direction, but Ziff doesn’t intend to stop there. The Model Alliance designed a survey to follow up with models after NYFW to get feedback about how the initiative could be improved. Ziff has also put forward a Proposal for Sexual Respect in the Fashion, Entertainment, and Media Industries, which she says includes provisions for education, complaint mechanisms, monitoring, and enforcement. “There have been an infinite number of codes of conduct introduced in the fashion industry and other industries, and they have not solved the problem,” Ziff said. “A serious program has teeth and consequences. People have to be able to file complaints and know they won’t be retaliated against.”