This post is written with the utmost respect for the people I've worked with on projects that involve children. What we do might seem like a lot of fun--and it is, but there is also a lot that comes along with the job that isn't easy. Being on the inside, we see a very different side of the fashion industry than most people.
That being said, I want to address an issue that has been on my mind. I've been working in fashion as a hairdresser for several years. I spent about one year working freelance in Los Angeles. During that time I worked as an assistant, and was the lead on jobs for a few clothing/shoe brands. While I was there, I worked on several shoots where there were young children cast as models.
Most of the time kids have a blast on these photo shoots. Generally, models are treated well, especially children. In my experience, big brands follow the regulations strictly and hire top staff across the board. These are the same brands who have been accused of fast fashion and unethical manufacturing.
However, I have been in some situations that caused me concern as a mother, consumer, and human being with an opinion. There was one model in particular who stands out in my mind. She was about my daughter's age. I worked with her on a couple of shoots back to back for separate brands.
Unfortunately, the job was not fun for this little girl. I picked up on some anxiety right away, which I attributed to stage fright. She had difficulty speaking to us during the prep. She was uncomfortable with the other models her age who were on the shoot. This child very obviously did not want to be there. She might have been being paid a lot of money. But there was nothing fun about her experience. I did my best at the time to make her feel comfortable.
Many of the children I worked with enjoyed what they were doing and had a loving parent with them to make sure all was well for the entire job. However, I can't help but think about this girl from time to time and wish I had done something in the moment to help her. I assumed her mother, who was on set, was taking care of her and addressing her needs.
We can always do a better job of starting constructive dialogues about things that concern us. To take that a step further, I want to encourage us all to pay better attention, especially in situations that seem glamorous or special, to make sure we are comfortable with where everyone is. I encourage you to educate yourself about the images that are being put in front of you daily and be aware as a consumer. Things are not always as they appear.
Photo by mMathew Ellis Siltala