Erin O'Connor: The big fashion houses must dig into their pockets

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The Independent Online

It was clear, after the Model Health Inquiry in 2007, that there was a need to provide the most vulnerable members of the fashion industry with access to confidential health education and support.

I had been working as a model for 10 years and felt I understood how young models needed help, so I founded the Model Sanctuary. We aim to encourage a strong ethic of self-reliance among models.

Ultimately we hope to empower them to become less susceptible to any negative influences they may be exposed to in the fashion industry, and we do this through providing advice from specialist nutritionists, physiotherapists, osteopaths, psychologists and counsellors.

The aim has always been to provide an environment where young people are encouraged to take responsibility for their own mental and physical wellbeing. Through our work we have seen how people are more responsive to a collaborative than a prescriptive approach.

Knowledge is more powerful when gained in this way and likely to be transferred among peer groups. If we are able to influence young people positively then this network effect becomes self-sustaining.

But we are completely reliant on sponsorship. So I am asking for greater support from the fashion industry: we need a workable venue and the security of long-term funding to provide this vital lifeline.