The Use of Underage Models Brings Legal Requirements for Brands

At least one underage model hit the runway during New York Fashion Week last February. That is right: 14-year old Mason Grammer (daughter of Camille and Kelsey Grammer) walked in the Malan Breton show, and to be frank, she is likely just one of a number of young models to have hit the runway thus far.

So, are these brands automatically in violation of the law, which went into effect in November 2013, for using girls under age 18? No. Simply casting models under age 18 is not a violation of the law as long as the necessary steps are taken in advance.

Per the Model Alliance, the non-profit organization heavily involved in drafting and championing the bill, it is a violation if these brands did not:

1 - Possess a certificate of eligibility to employ "child performers" (the models in this case) that was issued by the New York state Department of Labor (NY DOL);

2 - Submit a notice of use of child performers to the NY DOL at least 2 days before each of the events (think: fittings, runway shows, etc.);

3 - Make sure the child models had valid work permits and maintain a copy of the permits;

4 - Follow the restricted working hours, which includes giving models breaks after every four hours of work; AND

5 - Keep documentation evidencing models' trust accounts (and place 15% of models' earnings in those accounts).

Speaking of the law a couple of seasons, Doreen Small, the former general counsel of Ford Models, who now practices in the private sector and is a former member of the Model Alliance’s board of directors, largely working to draft the bill, said: “The Department of Labor has told us that there has been a huge uptick in applications for certificates of eligibility, so I think all the stakeholders are doing their best for compliance."

And while a large number of designers have, in fact, refrained from using girls under age 18 in recent seasons, what about the ones who sent underage models down the runway? Well, according to the law, designers and design houses found in violation are subject to fines: $1,000 for the first violation, $2,000 for the second and $3,000 for the third and every one thereafter. They also stand to lose their certificate of eligibility to employ underage model, assuming they had one to begin with.

Hopefully the brands that have opted to cast girls under age 18 followed the carefully drafted legislation, which is meant to afford protections to children working in the fashion industry. Due to the lack of official reports by the New York Department of Labor, we have no real way of knowing whether the law is actually being upheld. Stay tuned for more as fashion month continues.