CFDA guidelines – Are they working? Yes or No

Mar 31st 2012

Samantha taylor

It is an age old question whether or not models that walk the runways and grace the pages of the biggest fashion magazines are too thin. Currently another issue is front and centre! How old are some of the models that walk these runways? Believe it or not, there have been models as young as 14 and 15 walking in big name designer shows at events as large as New York fashion week.

But who is to blame for this? Model agencies are the ones who send models to clients. Often it is last minute, which leaves no opportunity for research/confirmation of the model’s age. Designers take the word of the agencies that the girls they send to them are eligible to walk the runway.

14 Year Old Model

The Ford model agency, possibly the biggest model agency in North America, recently came under fire for knowingly sending models under the age of 16 to model for big name designers. Ford makes no apology for this and their recent comments are in line with those of a number of agencies and designers who feel that the CDFA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) guidelines are not rules, are not mandatory and therefore they feel they are not doing anything illegal. This is true. The CFDA have not imposed laws on the fashion industry, simply set recommendations. And there lies the problem.

Despite the guidelines introduced by the CFDA, which state that girls should be at least 16 years of age to walk in a runway show, several well known designers are featuring models younger than this. This poses the question; should these “guidelines” be mandatory?
When the word “guideline” is used, people take it as just that, basically a suggestion on what to do, and something that doesn’t necessarily need to be followed. People as independent and sensitive as fashion designers are not likely to follow guidelines. They will run their shows the way they want to.
Models can be working 20 hours a day when on the runway circuit. This is not healthy for a 15 year old girl. Modeling may seem like a glamorous way of living, but it can be extremely tiring, can be lonely and certainly leaves no time for an education. In a lot of cases, teenage models end up dropping out of school in order to work as much as they can during their teenage years, when, it appears, they are most in demand. This should not be happening to girls this young. Some could compare this to the lifestyles of child actors, who also work long days and have to give up or put off their education. The difference here is that actors are represented by a union that protects their rights and ensures that they are properly taken care of. Child models do not have a union. They are left in the hands of their agents.
Fortunately, there are influential people in the industry who are taking a stand against using under age models for runway shows. Diane Von Furstenberg, the president of the CFDA, has now revised the guidelines outlining that runway models must be over the age of 16, and that IDs must be checked before they take part in a runway show. But the question still remains; should these guidelines be made mandatory? Would it help? Would designers and agencies follow the rules and only use models that fit the age criteria? Until mandatory rules are in place, adolescent models will continue to be exploited on the runways of the world, without even knowing they are being exploited. Hopefully, the CFDA will work to have these guidelines become mandatory rules in the not too distant future.
More and more rules are being put in motion to protect the models of the fashion industry. Recently, in Israel, a law passed stating that no model with a BMI (body mass index) under 18.5 is allowed to walk the runway or be featured in any kind of print ad. This is an attempt to keep eating disorders amongst models and young girls to a minimum. Also, ad companies have to tell their readers if and when a picture is photo-shopped to change the appearance of the models. While some model agencies and advertising companies may not be too happy about the new restricting law, this is new huge step towards healthier models, and a healthier self-image for young girls all over the world.