The runways of New York and the factories of Bangladesh could not seem further apart. Yet they both drive a global, 1.5 trillion dollar industry: the fashion industry. And in both cases, the work is performed overwhelmingly by young women and girls--fashion models, on the one hand, and garment workers on the other--both of whom are struggling to assert their rights in a hostile labor environment.
Last year, I formed the Model Alliance, a non-profit labor group for fashion models. We’ve had some notable successes, and I’m proud of that. But the horrific, and avoidable, industrial accidents in Bangladesh garment factories in the past few years--accidents that have claimed over a thousand lives in past few months alone--have driven home to me that meaningful progress will occur only when women across the fashion supply chain can organize to have a voice in their workplace.
As a model who has worked as the face of Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, I’m heartened that both these brands have signed onto the Bangladesh Fire and Safety Agreement. But unfortunately, the agreement won’t go into effect unless more brands sign on. So there is still much work to be done.
Models are the public faces of the very same brands that manufacture their clothes in Bangladesh. By speaking out for our sisters on the other side of the world, and encouraging the brands we work for to sign on to the agreement, we could make a difference.
Sara Ziff Founder, Model Alliance