Fashion: A model of militancy

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Indy Lifestyle Online

The last tune you would expect to hear the black-clad fashion industry marching to is The Red Flag. Yet, thanks to models Victoria Keon-Cohen and Dunja Knezevic, socialism is coming to the catwalk, as the models of the world unite.

The pair represent a group of catwalk and editorial models who joined the actors' union Equity in December. Inspired by last year's Model Health Inquiry, which found that 75 per cent of models supported the creation of a representative body, they first approached the trade union last spring.

"This is a group who haven't had a voice to defend themselves at work," says Martin McGrath from Equity. "They haven't had the rights other employees take for granted."

Complaints cited about the industry include: a lack of breaks; unfair contracts; a prevalence of drugs and alcohol; poor chaperoning of teenage models; allergic reactions to hair and make-up; and pressure to lose weight and have sex with clients or participate in nude shoots.

Models are notoriously quiet about the industry for fear of losing jobs. "Models have become disposable labour they know this, and often don't complain about mistreatment because they may be blacklisted," explains Keon-Cohen. "Without an independent support network, even models represented by reputable agencies are open to exploitation. Other models have attempted to set up unions in London and New York in the past, but their efforts were squashed by those in power."

Models standing up for themselves? It can only be good for the industry and its image.

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