Underage Models DID Walk During New York Fashion Week

Models.com released its Top Models of Fall 2014 list this week and along with it, some interesting facts. Turns out, not all New York designers used models aged 18 and older. You may recall that the newly-enacted Child Model Law was in effect for the first time during NYFW. The initial response to the law was quite glowing. It garnered praise from industry insiders, who spoke out in support, and showed early signs of success. For instance, casting director James Scully, whose clients include Tom Ford and Jason Wu, among others, told the New York Times: "This year, I saw over 350 girls, and only three were under 18." Yet, at least a handful of underaged girls (those under age 18, as defined by the newly-enacted NY labor law) ended up on the runway. 

Take Imaan Hammam, for instance. The Amsterdam-born beauty, who is 17-years old, walked in 27 shows this season, including Marc by Marc Jacobs Michael Kors, Proenza Schouler, Reed Krakoff, Narciso Rodriguez, Tory Burch, Hugo Boss and Edun (those are all brands that show during NYFW). New York native Emma Waldo, 17, walked for Victoria Beckham, Phillip Lim, Proenza Schouler, and Calvin Klein. 

Similarly, Waleska Gorczevski, 16, walked for Marc by Marc Jacobs, Proenza Schouler, Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein, Phillip Lim, Huge Boss, and Narciso Rodriguez - among others. Estonian model Harlth Kuusik, 17, walked for Proenza (she landed their S/S 2014 ad campaign), Marc by Marc Jacobs, SUNO (which she opened), Victoria Beckham, Opening Ceremony, Lacoste, Edun, and others.

There are certainly some names that were repeated more than others (think: Proenza Schouler, Marc by Marc, Narciso Rodriguez, and Calvin Klein). 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).

According to Doreen Small, the former general counsel of Ford Models, who now practices in the private sector and is an active member of the Model Alliance’s board of directors, largely working to draft the bill: “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 did, in fact, refrain from using girls under age 18, 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 others we mentioned, as well as the many we did not, opted to follow the carefully drafted legislation, which is meant to afford protections to children working in the fashion industry.