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Ugly secrets of fashion business

Wednesday, Feb 08, 2012 - 02:15

Feb. 8 - Runway models say the beautiful world of fashion comes with ugly labor conditions, prompting the creation of a workers' rights group ahead of New York Fashion Week. Bobbi Rebell reports.

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They strut their stuff on the runway but models often get tripped up by a business that can be brutal behind the scenes. Aiming to pull back the curtain- and promote change- model Sara Ziff founded the Model Alliance. A non-profit aimed at improving conditions in an industry- that takes advantage of young people enamored by the glitz of the fashion business. SOUNDBITE: SARA ZIFF, FOUNDER, MODEL ALLIANCE (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Sometimes they are not even getting paid any money for their work. They are working for trade which basically just means clothes and you know everyone loves a beautiful designer dress but frankly you can't pay your rent with trade." REPORTER BRIDGE: BOBBI REBELL, REUTERS REPORTER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Models are considered independent contractors. That means many worker protection laws simply don't apply." Susan Scafidi is the director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham University: SOUNDBITE: SUSAN SCAFIDI, DIRECTOR OF THE FASHION LAW INSTITUTE, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY (ENGLISH) SAYING: "There is nothing illegal about paying an independent contractor in trade because there are no minimum wages for independent contractors the way there are for employees. As an independent contractor you agree to do a job for a certain amount." The alliance is working with the Council of Fashion Designers of America and others in the industry on changes- like a new backstage policy for New York Fashion Week. SOUNDBITE: SUSAN SCAFIDI, DIRECTOR OF THE FASHION LAW INSTITUTE, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Such a simple thing right in the era of cell phones - everybody who doesn't need to be back there with a camera needs to get out so you don't have models who are changing clothes-somebody snaps a photo, puts it on the internet it follows them around forever. So that's one way in which the designers have really stepped forward to help out." The Model Alliance is also hoping to be a resource for workers put in precarious situations, like sexual harassment. SOUNDBITE: SARA ZIFF, FOUNDER, MODEL ALLIANCE (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Fashion is about what's new, what's next, and that makes the models highly replaceable and they know it, so it makes it very, very difficult to speak out if you are dealing with any kind of difficult situation or abuse." Ziff hopes that by putting a spotlight on industry blemishes, the fashion world can live up to its image of beauty for the public- and its workers. Bobbi Rebell, Reuters.

Ugly secrets of fashion business

Wednesday, Feb 08, 2012 - 02:15

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