Behind the glossy pages, billboards and fashion weeks, a darker reality lies beneath the glamourous exterior. It’s no surprise that back lash has resulted from years and years of abusing this illusion within the industry. These bad behaviors have led to the encouragement of eating disorders, sexual abuse and disregard of labor laws. Of course, it’s understandable that designers want to find a model that will portray their collection in the best light, but that’s no excuse for the consequences that have come of these actions.
Picture Me is an eye-opening documentary directed by Sara Ziff, a successful veteran model, and her boyfriend, Ole Schell. It starts out by explaining the basics of the industry and shows how Sara started her prosperous career at the age of 18. At first glance, Sara’s life is the epitome of glamour: jet setting to Paris, walking in shows like Chanel, seeing her billboards line the streets and cashing checks a size that some of us may never see in our lives. As time progresses and Sara meets more and more models, their struggles become more apparent. The documentary introduces us to models across the globe who have come face to face with this harsh reality of the modeling industry.
Since this documentary aired in 2009, there definitely have been improvements within the fashion industry as a whole. In 2015, Paris Fashion Week declared that all models must be of a healthy BMI to participate. Fashion weeks across the globe have slowly followed suit. There has also been an increase in diversity, especially in New York. This season of NYFW featured the most models of plus sizes, ages above 50 and transgender. Even 31.5% of models were of color. Designers, like Christian Siriano, Marc Jacobs and Brandon Maxwell, casted models in a variety of ethnicities, ages and sizes. Another trend setter has been Aerie. Their #AerieReal campaigns have received much positive recognition from consumers. They include models of all kinds without the use of retouching. Consumers were so adamant about these changes that Aerie saw a 20% increase in sales during its initial launch in 2015. These are feats in the right direction for the fashion industry, but they are only baby steps in the larger scheme.
Sara Ziff has also founded The Model Alliance to help combat these changes. As models do not have access to a union as other performers, such as actors with SAG, The Model Alliance was created as a volunteer-run advocacy group for American models. Their goal is to ensure long lasting change in labor standards, financial transparency, affordable health care and set an industry standard code of conduct. These changes will not only directly benefit the models but create more ethical work environment for all and set a better example to the many who admire the fashion industry.