Models join Equity in bid to improve conditions

A group of British models, believed to include some household names, aims to become the first in the fashion industry to join a trade union in an attempt to win greater working rights for catwalk professionals.

The models, who are hoping to challenge intensive working conditions and the growing "size zero" trend, have been in talks with the Equity trade union.

Equity traditionally represents actors and performers, and although television-based models who do advertising work have been accepted by trade unions, models in the fashion industry have little representation beyond their agencies.

"Models have no voice; no one is listening to them and no one is asking them what they want," said Martin Brown, an Equity spokesman who has been involved in the negotiations with the models since the spring. He said: "We were approached earlier this year by a group of models who said they needed a union. They complained they had no one to represent them and that if something went wrong and they went to their agencies they were warned not to complain because they would not work again." Union membership would be the first attempt by those employed inside the fashion world to force the industry into adopting clearer and fairer working rights for thousands of models.

Many of those who spoke to Equity complained about the kind of conditions they often had to work under.

One told how she suffered an extreme allergic reaction when her body was covered with car paint for a photo-shoot, while a male model said his scalp started to bleed after too much peroxide was put on his hair.

Models also complained that agencies made them sign unfair contracts, that they were often required to work long hours without any breaks, regularly had little chance to eat between shoots and felt unable to opt out of nude photo shoots over fears they might lose work.

It is understood that some of the models trying to set up the trade union committee are major players within the industry.

A fashion source said: "Some of those who want to set up the union are really quite big household names. But at the same time they are understandably a little uncomfortable about coming out in public just yet because of the prevailing view in the industry that models should keep quiet if they want to continue working."

The fashion industry has been under considerable pressure this year to increase the health of its models after the death of two models shone a spotlight on the pressures catwalk models faced to stay thin. Last summer a Uruguayan model, Luisel Ramos, 22, died of heart failure after not eating for several days in an attempt to stay thin.

Another model, the 21-year-old Brazilian Ana Carolina Reston, died last year from anorexia-related kidney failure on the eve of a photographic shoot. She had been living on a diet of apples and tomatoes.

In a move to acknowledge concerns over the "size zero" trend, the British Fashion Council set up an inquiry into the health of models to see what improvements could be made. It made key recommendations when it published its findings in September.

Equity said it was hoping to set up a committee of models to introduce basic minimum working standards.

"We want to work in partnership with the industry, not in confrontation," said Mr Brown.

"We won't be able to insist on people signing up to these basic standards but we should make a pretty powerful lobby."

'I often have to work in harsh conditions' Amy. Model, 19

Amy went into modelling at 16, but left three years later to go to university.

"My experience was a lot less glamorous than I was expecting. On a shoot, models almost never get a break, unlike photographers, stylists and make-up artists. If you want lunch or a cigarette it's very difficult. Shoots would often last 15 hours and I wouldn't see the light of day. Men get paid a lot less than women. It must be one of the few industries where that is the case.

"Then there is the pressure to lose weight, the drugs, and some of the things we are expected to do. I was on a shoot where they wanted to make the models look like they were from another world, and they bleached this model's eyebrows. The bleach was running into her eyes, and the poor girl was just sitting there crying.

"People often only told me that I'd have to go topless once I'd arrived at the shoot, and I don't think that's fair. Models risk being labelled as pathetic for complaining. There's a belief that we get paid so much simply for looking pretty that we should put up and shut up."

The model's name has been changed

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Maths Teacher

    £110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

    Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

    £35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker