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On the Sidelines of Fashion Week, Activist Sara Ziff Grateful for Much Needed New Law

At New York Fashion Week, Salon caught up with Sara Ziff, a veteran fashion runway and print model who has for several years been banging the drum about abuses that she says are common within the profession.


As a testament to her efforts, the February 6-13 edition of the NYC event marked an important milestone in her campaign to rectify some of the wrongs:

“What most people probably don’t realize is that the [common fashion industry] body type is really based on casting girls instead of women. And so there’s a labor dimension to that, that I think people are oblivious to.”

“We championed this bill that we introduced last year, and Governor Cuomo signed into law in October, that basically gives fashion models who are underage teens the same protections as other child performers in New York.”

“This was the first Fashion Week that this [law] was in place: you know, maximum working hours, provisions for chaperones, trust accounts and so on. Models have to have work permits now, and their employers have to have a certificate of eligibility to engage them. So there’s enough paperwork, and it’s enough of a hassle, that I think what we’re seeing this Fashion Week is that designers are essentially casting women 18 and up, to model their clothes.”

If you’re not familiar with the details that Ziff has been trying to expose, the Salon Q&A is a very good place to start. For example, she notes that she has seen in the past modeling agency contracts that stipulated a female teenage model could gain no more than two centimeters on her hips. A stipulation that caused young women to stop letting their bodies develop naturally.

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