Monday, 16 September 2013

A model union

Photographer: Mark Chilvers for The Guardian Model: Alex B

What is a union? A union is an organisation representing workers of a particular sector in order to protect their rights and achieve specific goals which allow their members to work in the best and safest possible conditions. In a democratic society unions are active and negotiate pay with employers, organise industrial action, lobby, and provide a range of services to members, such as legal representation in case of disputes.
Belonging to a union is a fundamental right, enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights. 
Performers have their own union, which in the UK is Equity. Models are categorised as performers and they too have a branch of Equity, the Model Network which is set up for them. 
Why do we need a union? seems to be a refrain as far as models are concerned. Or worse 'My agency does not encourage membership of a union'. What a surprise!
Models need a union because many models are minors and there has to be legislation to protect them. Models are vulnerable. Models can be exploited, working long hours, often being compensated with a couple of garments (lovely indeed but do they help to pay the rent?). Equity has negotiated a Model Programme for London Fashion Week and a code of conduct, known as the ten-point code of conduct. But there is a lot more to be done. Models who freelance are especially vulnerable, they need advice on contracts. 
Photographer: Mark Chilvers Model: Alex B.
There are huge issues to be tackled, such as the rampant racism on the catwalk, and some of them have been taken up by lobbying bodies such as Models of Diversity and All Walks Beyond the Catwalk. These are powerful lobbies but not unions. They can work together with Equity, but membership of Equity is essential in order to safeguard your position as a professional model.  
I have written about this before and will continue to write about it because it is an important matter: if you are a model, a professional, consider joining Equity. You can join online here or contact Equity at
You can also like the Facebook page and if you are interested you may want to join a steering group within Equity, to make it your model union.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Beauty on the catwalk

Capture from Anavae's recent music video. Dancer: myself

London Fashion Week is coming soon and there is a frenzy in the air. Catwalk4Change, a fashion show which aims at challenging received notions of who can be a fashion model, will take place on Friday 6th and promises to be a very exciting event.
Flash Fashion Portobello is taking place on 7th daytime, I will be modelling for it. It is another event aimed at challenging model size stereotypes.
Various articles have appeared once again in the press calling for greater diversity of bodies in fashion. I think it is very important to understand that the issue is not so much diversity in advertising or in catalogues, to some extent we are already seeing it. It is diversity on the catwalk that matters, that is where the very slim, very tall, very white, very young models dominate. They epitomise the edgy look, which is then picked up in editorial spreads. 
It is on the catwalk that we see uniformity rather than diversity and somehow this is brushed aside by saying that 'traditionally' designer sample clothing comes in small sizes, so what can model bookers do? They have to provide models that fit into those tiny sizes. And so the vicious circle is perpetuated. Racism is also constantly covered up, by saying that of course no one is racist, it's just that models of colour do not have, you know, the 'look' (with some notable exceptions). 
What is that 'look'? When you try to pin it down it is, well,  what a surprise, a caucasian look. 
Can things change? Yes of course they can.

All Walks i-D pop up
First we need to educate young designers on the need for bigger sample sizes. This is why the Diversity Now! competition was so important, change begins with the students of today, designers of tomorrow. Another thing that is sorely needed is work among young models, to make them aware of their rights, Teenage models are children who need to continue with their schooling. The right to be tutored when they miss school should be built in their contracts. Teenage models should not be pressurised to lose weight, it damages their physical and psychological health. Equity, the performers union, is currently trying to  build a models network and is calling for all models to join the union and bring up for discussion the issues that affect them.
As an Equity member I shall be monitoring this and report on developments.