The Me Too movement has reached the fashion industry, and it's helping models stay safe backstage at New York Fashion Week runway shows and behind the scenes at photo shoots.
In a pair of changes over the past month, the Model Alliance and the Council of Fashion Designers of America partnered to provide private changing areas for the models backstage at this week's runway week shows, while Conde Nast announced a new code of conduct for its brands' photo shoots, banning underage models and alcohol on sets while setting stricter standards for nude or sexually explicit poses.
At Wednesday night's amfAR Gala, held annually as an unofficial fashion week kickoff, veteran model Karen Elson talked about the reaffirming changes she sees in the industry, which she has supported with her own work with the Model Alliance.
"For me personally it was a huge success because I'd been modeling — I'm 39 now and I started modeling when I was 16 years old or so, I've been in the business for a long time," Elson told USA TODAY on the red carpet. "And the girls I know now, I could basically be their mother. Which is fine by me, honestly."
"But what I recognize is. It's been a really long time coming," she added. "Fashion shows are situations where girls are often naked, getting changed in front of strangers...and we don't have background checks for the people who are helping us change. Up until now, there hasn't been a great level of privacy. So personally, I think it's a huge victory for me, for creating a safer and more accountable fashion industry."
Elson has two children, 17-year-old Scarlett Teresa and 11-year-old Henry Lee, and talked about how motherhood has changed her perspective of the industry.
"I'm a mother. I could not imagine putting my daughter in a scenario where she's getting naked in front of a bunch of strangers," she said, adding: "I'm an adult woman and I want to see it safer for women like myself and I want to see it safe for young girls. It's just not necessary, and I think when you disregard a person's basic human right in terms of feeling safe in a work environment, it can be very dangerous. And for me it's about time that we all (become) accountable."