Model Law is new French body promoting fashion model rights
Gwenola Guichard, 29, from France, and Ekaterina Ozhiganova, 25, from Russia, have founded Model Law, the first French association for the protection of fashion models and their rights. Two models themselves, they have been involved with Paris fashion ever since coming to the French capital to study. They were inspired by the creation of the Model Alliance in the USA, a not-for-profit research, policy and model rights advocacy organisation created in 2012 by another former model, Sara Ziff, co-director of the 2009 documentary film 'Picture Me: A Model's Diary'.
Having realised that nothing of the sort existed in France, Gwenola Guichard and Ekaterina Ozhiganova, after many years of debate, and repeated efforts to raise awareness for the subject in the media, decided to found the Model Law association, a legally recognised body. In just a month, the manifesto they drew up for Model Law was signed by 200 industry professionals, including fashion journalists Alice Pfeiffer and Géraldine Dormoy-Tungate, influencers Louise Follain and Sophie Fontanel, and photographer Mauro Mongiello.
The association's objective is not to become a trade union. "Our goal is to put forward a draft bill to revise the current collective labour agreement for models (which was introduced in France in 2004) and to change the law. While acting as an impartial intermediary between models and their agencies, public authorities and the media. Often, models are unable to [act on their own behalf], due to the language barrier, their lack of maturity, as some of them are very young, and because theirs is a business in which image and reputation are everything, and they fear tarnishing their own," said Guichard.
Model Law's manifesto contains a chapter on sexual violence and sexism, though Guichard emphasised that they first conceived of and began to work on the association long before the Weinstein affair and the accusations levelled against photographers Terry Richardson, Mario Testino, Bruce Weber and the co-founder of Guess, Paul Marciano.
Model Law is also keen to reveal the realities of working as a model, as indicated in the manifesto's opening lines: "The earnings of top models are the stuff of dreams, but reality is totally different for the vast majority of ordinary models. Models earn between 33% and 36% of the invoiced amounts, and they always pose for free for the media." A useful reminder, now that Condé Nast has published a charter for the well-being of the models who work for its magazines, and that both Elle and Version Femina magazines have added their signatures to a similar document drawn up by Kering and LVMH.
Although, in Guichard's opinion, it is good that these documents exist, according to her "they don't go far enough, they have been written without really consulting with models, as is quite obvious." She also underlined how modelling contracts are precarious, and models work within a system in which they are "too little protected against abuse."
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