While waiting for the Alexander Wang show to start, I went over and introduced myself to the CEO of the CFDA, Steven Kolb. A truly gracious and nice guy, he thankfully had no hard feelings about us turning him into Kermit the Frog. With that behind us, I asked him about the issue du jour, underage models walking in New York fashion week, and the CFDA's latest stance.
Last week in the wake of a New York Times article, Ford Models went on the record saying that they used underaged models on a "case-by-case basis alongside a prospective model’s parents." Here's what Kolb had to say about Ford's decision:
Fashionista: So some agencies have admitted that they’re using underage models... Steven Kolb: Ford admitted it.
We’ve heard that it’s still happening, even this season. Our intention was never to be a police state, but to educate and create awareness and to really bring a dialogue to the issue. If you look now and you compare what we’ve done in New York compared to what’s done in Europe, you don’t even hear that dialogue about it anymore. The fact that we’re even talking about underage models on the runway is a huge plus.
To be honest, we’re disappointed in Ford because they committed not to send models under 16, but that’s their choice, it’s their business. It’s a business decision. But there are a lot of checkpoints along the way. Designers [need to] pay attention--because a lot of them don’t know who’s walking in their shows. They can’t just trust that their casting agent is [checking]. Everybody’s got to pay attention to it. But I think this season particularly, we’ve made such great progress. A lot of people are honoring it. I’ve seen great change over the [past] 5 years.
If a CFDA member designer was found to have used an underage model, would they be penalized in any way? Of course not. That’s not what we are. But we continually message the importance of models 16 and over. In the instances where we might see a girl under 16, we’ll let the designer know that. A lot of times the designer doesn’t know.
Some people are going to do the right thing and some people are not going to do the right thing.