What do you get when you take 9 retired fashion models, 8 of New York city’s biggest modeling agencies and the world’s largest litigation firm…a New York Supreme Court shit fight that, if successful in favour of our clothes horses, is likely to change the face of the modelling industry in the States and around the world…forever!
Earlier this year Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan filed a Third Amended Class Action Complaint, on behalf of our lovelies, against the agencies who are said to have deprived the lovelies of wages, overcharged expenses, forced their way into the lives of the lovelies and withheld work if questions were asked. All feasible allegations if you know anyone in the closed shop industry of high fashion modeling but what is extraordinary is we finally have a group of lovelies ballsy enough to speak out on behalf of the others that are still slogging it out under the flash bulbs for paltry pay and sub par conditions.
A critical argument advanced by Quinn Emanuel, who as an aside are well renowned for knowing their business, is that these lovelies were actually employees rather than the independent contractors that they were characterised as. Which as any savvy lawyer knows is a segway into all sorts of conditions that will on no view of the world have been offered to these or an of New York’s lovelies. We’re talking minimum wage, regular pay checks, accountable expenses etc. Again, the employee argument is highly feasible based on the amount of control the respective agencies imposed on the day to day work environment and conditions of the lovelies. So modeling agencies you may be in ‘all sorts’ here, one would imagine.
Some of the more extraordinary, but all to possible, allegations levelled at the agencies were that their lovelies were instructed in their clothing and personal grooming choices, accommodation and boyfriends and were not permitted to have anything to do with their bookings, contractual negotiations or recovery of earnings. But the kicker is that with the instruction on all things mother agency came the costs! Allegedly the “we want you to wear your hair like this so you represent this agency well”…was accompanied by “we have booked an appointment for you at this stylist”…oh and if you can’t afford it don’t worry it will come out of your wages and until you pay the principal loan we’ll charge you interest on the outstanding money”. And no, no my lovely…no questions will be asked if you want to continue getting modeling work to pay off those loans.
If the allegations can be established, and if anyone can run a smooth case against the mother ships, it’s Quinn Emanuel, then be prepared for a spate of changes in the running of things in the fashion industry. For a simple start the lovelies are asking, on behalf of all models forming part of the class, for a court order that the agencies provide them with a wages statement with a full explanation for the calculation of wages and deductions. That alone could put agencies under a boat load of pressure!
Stay tuned for further updates as Shanklin & Ors v Wilhelmina Models Inc & Ors 653702/2013 moves through the hallowed halls of the Supreme Court of New York.