It Just Got a Lot Harder for Designers to Use Underage Models

Yesterday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that categorizes fashion models under the age of 18 as "child performers." This could have an impact on how designers hire models when fashion week rolls around again in February.

As Eric Wilson writes for the New York Times:

Many designers will most likely be discouraged from using extremely young models in their shows because of the requirements of the law, including limits on the number of hours those models can work, as well as how late and how often then can be used. While there has been a trend in the last year of hiring more seasoned models (meaning those in their early 20s) after criticism of the modeling industry in recent years, it is still normal for most models to start their careers well under the age 18. The Council of Fashion Designers of America has urged its members to set a minimum age of 16 for runway models.

Ondria Hardin, pictured above, made waves last year: She became the face of Chanel and walked in quite a few runway shows. She was 15 at the time. During New York Fashion Week, Hardin was in runway shows for Anna Sui and Donna Karan; she was also in Marc Jacobs last show for Louis Vuitton during Paris Fashion Week. She's not the only underage model getting work — Vogue Japan shot an editorial with a 14-year-old model last year; and last year during fall fashion shows in NY, photographer David Urbanke tweeted, "I've stopped counting the number of underage girls I've photographed that have walked shows this season."

Wilson explains:

The state Department of Labor will need to adapt many of its regulations regarding child performers to the modeling industry, but the changes could be substantial. In guidelines prepared for designers as they began to digest the impact of the law, [Susan Scafidi, the academic director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham University] noted that requirements could include multiple forms of paperwork to register the employment of underage models and monitoring their hours. Models under 18, for example, would not be allowed to work after midnight on a school night for fittings for a runway show, or return to work less than 12 hours after they leave. In some cases, designers would also be required to provide tutors, trust accounts and chaperones when using models under 18.

Scafidi points out that the easiest way to avoid fees and monitoring and tutors and hoopla is to just hire models over the age of 18.

Today, model Coco Rocha and model Arlenis Sosa joined NY State Senator Jeffrey Klein, Senator Diane Savino and Model Alliance founder/director Sara Ziff as they made a statement regarding this huge victory.

[NYT, Model Alliance, Oh So Coco]