Sara Ziff is organizing the Model Alliance to fight industry abuse.
Sara Ziff, who has worked as a model since she was 14, wants to level the playing field between young models and the predatory fashion industry, but will any young models have the courage to join her new group?
Ziff used New York Fashion Week as a platform to launch her group, called the Model Alliance. She created the non-profit group because of widespread abuses in the industry, including disregard for child labor laws, lack of financial transparency and sexual abuse.
“Most models start their adult careers as minors and they labor in an unregulated business knowing that they are highly replaceable,” said Ziff in a statement.
Ziff, a native New Yorker, is the daughter of a lawyer and a biochemistry professor. She graduated from the Bronx High School of Science and Columbia University.
She’s also known for filming “Picture Me,” a documentary that went behind-the-scenes in the modeling industry to expose its highs and lows. She’s been outspoken about the use of underage models, sexual abuse and industry pressure to be thin.
Her first order of business is to prevent backstage photos of nude models during this week’s show. She also wants to create a confidential counseling service for sexual harassment. And, the alliance has written a bill of rights to protect models.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), which has been trying to convince designers to follow voluntary guidelines on underage models, has endorsed the effort.
“Change comes from action and the Model Alliance can be a catalyst for change,” said CFDA Chief Executive Steven Kolb.
Ziff and CFDA President Diane von Furstenberg have targeted Fashion Week, which starts today (Feb. 9), to convince designers to ban photographers and non-essential staff when models change clothes.
Von Furstenberg tried last year to get designers to ban any model under 16 from working in the shows with only modest success. Designers claim they are often misled by young underage models.
“There’s nothing funny about a work force that is overwhelmingly young, female and impoverished, working for some of fashion’s wealthiest, most powerful brands,” said former model and fashion writer Jenna Sauers. a Model Alliance board member.
And that may be the problem. The industry is so unbalanced, while young fashion models are flocking to fashion centers everyday. They are desperate for work and willing to ask few questions. Waves of models pour in from Eastern Europe, where almost anything is better than life back home.