USA: Fashion workers bill and how it may help course correct the industry

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Fashion models and their profession might look glamorous, perhaps, even utopian to the outsider and naturally so. After all, what’s not tempting about wearing designer clothes and walking down the ramp among the whose who of society? However, there is a dark underbelly of the industry which is often left ignored.

As Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial starts, conversation surrounding the ‘Fashion Workers Bill’ has once again started to gain pace. The act advocates for fair treatment across various levels of the fashion industry.

Read more: Harvey Weinstein back on trial, five years after #MeToo movement shook the world

“On so many levels, from emotional to physical to financial, fashion has been abusing models for years and years and years,” Kaja Sokola, a Polish model who accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct was quoted as saying by The Guardian. 

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There are thousands of individuals like Sokola who have been exploited to the bones by the fashion industry and its supposed powerful overlords. Not only do the fashion models face sexual exploitation but they are also denied of their rightful monetary compensation as agencies use devious tricks to walk out of contracts. 

Under the proposed fashion bill, management agencies will have to compensate models within 45 days of completing a job or assignment. The agencies will also have to provide a copy of the work contracts to the models so that predatory practices such as mystery fees and overcharging of services could be avoided.

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In the case of agencies receiving royalties for a model or a creative they longer represent, the act will ensure that the said models are duly notified. 

The commission for agencies will also be capped at 20 per cent to ensure that models are not exploited. The bill, however, has received stiff resistance from groups such as Artist Management Association and American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA).

“Despite agencies being a middleman between a brand client and a creative management company, the bill imposed a blanket requirement that agencies render payment to creatives (hair stylists, makeup artists, casting directors, etc.) or their representative management companies no later than 30 days after the completion of services,” AAAA argued in a statement released. 

The proposed bill was introduced in the Spring session last month. it nearly passed both houses of the legislature, but lawmakers ran out of time for a final vote. Reportedly, the bill will be tabled once again in the 2023 legislative session that starts in January. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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