It is fashion's worst-kept secret that models are often ill-treated everywhere from editorial sets to runway castings; between being denied food or proper breaks and being the target of sexual harassment from a young (sometimes very young) age, it's hardly the glamorous industry sold to the women who are offered the chance to become a model.
French fashion conglomerates LVMH and Kering have teamed up to try and make that better for the models who work with their brands. Just in time for the start of fashion month, the two released a joint charter outlining the guidelines they will use to determine the hiring and the working conditions of models going forward.
"Respecting the dignity of all women has always been both a personal commitment for me and a priority for Kering as a Group," François-Henri Pinault, Chairman and CEO of Kering, said in a release. "Through the establishment of this charter and our commitment to abide by its terms, we are once again manifesting the importance of this core value in a very concrete manner. We hope to inspire the entire industry to follow suit, thus making a real difference in the working conditions of fashion models industry-wide."
The most surprising guidelines involve health and weight; just last May, Louis Vuitton came under fire for sending a model home from its Tokyo resort show who failed to fast herself down to a smaller measurement. Going forward, both LVMH and Kering have committed to banning a size 32 for women (a U.S. 00) and a size 42 for men (smaller than a U.S. men's XS). Instead, casting agencies must send women size 34 or over — just how "or over" remains to be seen, naturally — and men size 44 and over. That's still a U.S. size 0, but certainly better than the ever-shrinking waistlines that have been dominating runways.
The two will also exclusively work with models who can present a medical certificate (in line with recent French law), but it's the final health provision that is truly progressive: LVMH and Kering have committed to providing a dedicated therapist or psychologist for models during working hours.
Beyond health, LVMH and Kering have both agreed not to hire any models under the age of 16 for any purpose, including ad campaigns "representing an adult" — i.e. they can still work, but they must be posing as children rather than grown women. Models between the ages of 16 and 18 will not be allowed to work between the hours of 10 P.M. and 6 A.M., which means no more fittings that run into early morning hours, and said models must be accompanied by a chaperone.
There are provisions regarding nudity as well: Models under 18 must have even semi-nudity signed off through their legal representative, and models over 18 will be provided private spaces to change. Models will also never be alone with "a person linked to the production or a photographer," which should hopefully cut back on issues of sexual harassment.
Though only two pages long, the charter is impressive in outlining better working conditions for models, including providing transportation, access to food and beverages and timely payment (an area that is admittedly still vague in terms of what and how models will be paid). LVMH and Kering have also built in a monitoring system, which insists models must have a means to make a complaint "from the first selection interview to the last performance," whether it involves a modeling agency, a casting director or a brand employee. There will also be a monitoring committee in charge of ensuring both companies comply with the charter.
"I am deeply committed to ensuring that the working relationship between LVMH Group brands, agencies and models goes beyond simply complying with the legal requirements. The well-being of models is of great importance to us," says LVMH board member Antoine Arnault in a statement. "As the leader in the luxury sector, we believe it is our role to be at the forefront of this initiative. We have the responsibility of building new standards for fashion and we hope to be followed by other players in our sector."
After last season's disappointing revelations brought to light by casting director James Scully, it's inspiring to see two of fashion's biggest players work together — in and of itself a marvel in this industry — to improve working conditions of models beyond legal limits. It's also a good reminder that having the courage to speak out can actually make a change. Banning a size 00 may hardly be progressive, but it is a start, and we look forward to tracking this initiative moving forward.