This week two renowned fashion designers were in the spotlight, not for their unique creations, but for disregarding labor law.
First, it was Marc Jacobs. According to model Hailey Hasbrook, 17, the designer kept her until 4:30am doing fittings and looks and did not pay for over 30 hours of work during New York Fashion Week. Instead, the model got paid in trade, which means instead of money, she got clothes, shoes and bags.
Hasbrook alleges that she actually preferred to be paid in trade and was happy with the "payment". Her working routine during NY Fashion Week was detailed on her blog.
Former model and contributor to Jezebel, Jenna Sauersl, says that it no news that models have to do a lot of free of work, like walking for designers, editorials for magazines and show presentations. However, she claims that doing looks was the one work that a model actually makes money and makes up for all the other free work.
Marc Jacobs is also known for have employed two 14-years old models in the past, despite the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA)'s guidelines encouraging designers not to use models under the age of 16. And the controversy gets even bigger since Marc Jacobs is in its Board of Directors and received the organizations's 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award.
Jacob's response to Hasbrook history was quite condescending. He said on Twitter: "Models are paid in trade [clothes]. If they don't want to work w/ us, they don't have to."
|Marc Jacobs' reply to the controversy|
Well, at least Hailey Hasbrook was happy with her new clothes.
And then it was Alexander Wang. A former employee, Weng Lu, and thirty other workers state they were forced to "work 16 hours a day or longer — without overtime — in a suffocating, windowless, 200-square-foot room" in Wang's New York Chinatown Sweatshop and are charging the designer for violating labor law in a US$ 50 million lawsuit.
Lu said his bosses threatened to fire him if he did not follow orders, which included "knit and perfect" a pair of leather trousers in only fours, when the job actually requires at least 12 hours. On February 16, 2012, when Lu complained about the conditions and asked for worker's compensation, he was fired.
Alexander Wang's reps have not comment the case yet.
Apparently exploiting employees is not exclusive to China. We all know about the pressure and competition in the fashion business. But should they justify exploiting employees?
Wang's case aside, since running sweatshops are in no way acceptable, are Marc Jacobs payments in trade reasonable? The industry seems to somewhat tolerate and the models like the goods. Lets hope landlords and banks will also accept clothes and shoes when the models go to pay their bills.