One of the industry's most prominent models Karen Elson recently joined the Model Alliance's board of directors. Sara Ziff and the Model Alliance came into existence in 2012 with the mission of promoting the fair treatment, safety, overall working conditions and mental health of models. More prominent now than ever, we note a new evolution in the group's mission that includes a need to embrace fashion's trickle-down effect and its impact in the larger population.
This week Elson joined the Model Alliance's board of directors and its founding director Ziff in a chat in Rachel Comey's Crosby Street store. On hand were editors, agents and designers, along with a lot of young models, writes Vogue.
Ziff and Elson reviewed the basic accountability steps that the industry is taking to address the 'job' of being a model. Fresh -- if not new -- commentary in the presentation focused on the trickle-down effect that the fashion industry has on women's self-images and the larger culture. Elson shared her thoughts:
"Let’s think about the trickle-down: We in the fashion industry have a responsibility for women in general—women who look at images in magazines and on billboards and feel inspired to look like us—and if we’re putting up a sick image of a woman who goes to the gym for two and a half hours a day and exists on 1,000 calories . . . we’re not putting forth a positive image. It’s feeding this bigger narrative, where women in the ‘real world’ look at this and feel shit about themselves. But fashion is joyful, it’s playful. The women and the models I work with are inspiring and brilliant. Let’s bring that to the forefront, on top of the genetically blessed, beautiful women they are. Let’s make it joyful.”
One of the young models without an agent asked Elson what to do if she is feeling compromised or fearful at a fashion shoot, knowing that she might not be booked again. Elson correctly answered the young woman with words meant to steel her backbone, while being sympathetic to the reality that the action could backfire. Basically, Elson is saying that young models must take a stand.
“When things happen to me on set, the first thing I do is call my agent, but if you don’t have that, it’s tricky,” Elson added. “The only thing I can say is, if you’re in a situation where you feel compromised, it’s necessary to walk away. This is how these abusers [work]—they prey on a person who feels like their livelihood is dependent on it.” For models who have found themselves in similar situations, the Model Alliance has a grievance reporting service.