PARIS — Luxury rivals LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Kering teamed up to host a day of spirited roundtable discussions on the well-being of models, nearly two years after the groups joined forces to draft a charter aimed at improving working conditions for models. Two new signatories were announced: Publicis and Oscar de la Renta.
There were plenty of nods to progress made, but sticky issues were also highlighted, such as the need to improve support for models in early and late stages of their careers — which everyone agreed are getting shorter in these fast-paced times — as well as the importance of vetting modeling agencies from countries where there is less oversight.
“To me, it seemed important to organize a day that can be seen as a step but that also allows us to conclude the first chapter, so to speak — that’s the objective of this day,” said Marie-Claire Daveu, chief sustainability officer and head of international institutional affairs at Kering, in opening remarks to an auditorium filled with around 150 people, including models, editors and representatives from modeling agencies.
In fall 2017, in a context of increased social media scrutiny on working conditions of models, the companies challenged the industry to change entrenched habits, throwing their combined weight behind a charter introducing measures such as banning size-zero and under-16 models for shows of their fashion houses, including Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Saint Laurent and Celine. The charter was sponsored by Kering chairman and chief executive officer François-Henri Pinault and Antoine Arnault, who heads communication and image at LVMH and is ceo of Berluti. Neither of the executives was present Thursday, but their names came up more than once during the discussions.
“When it was written, the charter was a fairly novel idea, bringing together two competitors in an act born of shared conviction that it is our ethical and social responsibility to ensure the well-being of all models who work in our houses,” said Daveu.
The companies both stressed that there is work still to be done.
“Of course two years have not transformed everything, resolved everything,” said Marc-Antoine Jamet, secretary-general of LVMH, noting the effort on both parties to carve out time to reflect on the issue.
“There is a collective responsibility, it’s not exclusively up to models, artistic directors, agencies or companies,” he added.
Both executives addressed a point of difference between the two groups. Kering in May revealed it will raise the minimum age of models it works with to 18 starting next year, while LVMH executives declined to follow suit, saying they work with a small proportion of models under 18, but do so in an environment with strict oversight.
“It can happen that we bring different solutions; to shared goals there can be separate methods,” said Jamet.
The executives stressed they felt there was a “before” and an “after” the signing of the charter, with Jamet noting it brought issues like confidence, self esteem and moral values into the debate. Meanwhile, Daveu expressed satisfaction with how fashion houses have adopted the terms and the spirit of the effort.
Cyril Brulé, founder and director of Viva Model Management and president of the National Union of Modeling Agencies, which goes by the French acronym SYNAM, agreed.
“Before the existence of the charter, there wasn’t this discourse, there wasn’t this exchange with fashion houses, with groups. I think what has been done is important at all levels,” he said.
“Models finally felt listened to, recognized and understood — it was an enormous relief for them,” he added.
Caroline de Maigret spoke about the importance of education. Being French, and equipped with an education that helped give her perspective helped her in her modeling career, she said, while she has seen young women today who have families relying on their success, making it more difficult to deal with defeat and humiliation.
“People told me to redo my nose, which I found absurd — but it can be harder for others when they are faced with humiliation,” she said. De Maigret suggested models be briefed upon arrival at an agency, including helping them understand when to say “no.”
At break time, a clutch of LVMH and Kering executives huddled together briefly to exchange thoughts on the morning discussions. Aaron Miller, a model from London, surveyed the room, noticing the canvas bags marked “wecareformodels.com” — a web site to promote the charter — against a salmon backdrop.
“I thought it was very feminine-based — even the bag is pink — they keep on saying ‘women.’ We have very different problems, men and women,” he said. Men have a lot of insecurities, too, he added.
“A lot of 16-year-olds are traveling from China, Russia, Japan to Milan who don’t have a clue what they’re doing, they’re just left to walk to castings,” Miller said.