'More protection' needed for models

More needs to be done to ensure models' rights are being enforced in the fashion industry, it is claimed.

Working models have told Newsbeat they want government regulation to stop young girls from being exploited.

Dunja Knezevic has been working as a model for more than 13 years.

She said: "It's crazy. You never know what to expect. You travel from country to country, working with great people but also some strange people."

Her experiences have largely been positive, but the uncomfortable moments have crossed the line.

"I don't have a problem with nudity but I'd rather be told beforehand than told on the shoot. Also, I've caught hypothermia while on location," she said.

Britain's fashion industry is worth 21-billion pounds and for Dunja with that comes responsibility.

"It's a very adult industry to throw someone in who is just a teenager," she said. "They're the ones to worry about."

This is why as a member of Equity - set up for models and actors - she helped to create a 10-point plan last year to ensure basic rights for working models.

Since then UK Vogue have signed up, as well as some major high street stores.

For Hilary Hadley, head of live performance at Equity, more could be done: "There are many reasons why someone doesn't sign up.

"But I think it shows a lack of confidence that they can't ensure that every aspect of their business follows this basic code."

As well as Equity there is the Association of Modelling Agencies (AMA), which fashion agencies have to apply to be a part of.

More than 20 well known agencies are members and they all agree by AMA's code of practice which cover models' rights.

The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) says it fully supports initiatives these voluntary codes which stop models being exploited.

'New laws'

But 27-year-old Katia Elizarova, who's modelled for Versace and Chanel doesn't think that's enough.

"These codes are great but they're not enforceable, they are voluntary," she said. "AMA doesn't represent all agencies out there, so what are those other agencies up to?"

She's been meeting politicians campaigning for something tougher: "Government regulations would be great. In 2007 there was the Model Health Inquiry, which I think showed genuine change in the industry does not occur without the government's direct support."

The AMA says the industry is hard to regulate - but if a model wants to ensure they gets their basic rights - really they should be careful who they apply to.

Chairman Laurie Kuhrt said: "It's common sense. If you want to be a model, you need to start off with a reputable agency, that way you won't be taken advantage of.

"If you aren't accepted by up to three agencies, then maybe you should think carefully if you can be a model."

'Unnecessary burden'

For the government, regulation is not the answer.

A spokesperson for BIS told Newsbeat: "There are no plans to make these codes compulsory.

"Most agencies already operate to high standards and this may be seen by them as an unnecessary burden."

"All models should be treated fairly by agencies and we urge anyone who thinks that an agency is not complying with the law to contact the Pay and Work Rights Helpline (0800 917 2368) for advice or to make a complaint."

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