The Italian Almanac

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model on catwalk

Italian News / Fashion - May 18

Italian modelling agencies held the country's first 'fashion' strike on Wednesday to protest against what they say is a growing tendency to push Italy out of the industry. Catwalks were deserted and fashion photographers kicked their heels for three hours in the afternoon as nine of the country's top agencies refused to provide models. The unprecedented stoppage was called by ASSEM, the association of fashion services, whose members account for 70% of Italy's revenue in a sector which has always been seen as one of its strengths.

The strike aimed in part to highlight an alleged tendency by Italy's own fashion publications to use foreign agencies, photographers, hairdressers, make-up artists and models for their features. "All the work connected to fashion gets shifted abroad, while we should be defending Italy's fashion capital, including the industries that support it," said ASSEM president Guido Dolci. But the action was also provoked by the "unfair competition" that Italian modelling agencies say they now face.

According to industry insiders, there is a tendency for US multinationals to sidestep agencies and to hire models directly. One in particular is reported to regularly set up a temporary agency in Milan during the fashion show season, sign up dozens of models for various jobs, and then close down again as soon as the shows are over. This takes away the livelihood of local modelling agencies, who make a large slice of their annual revenue precisely during the fashion show period, analysts explain.

Another gripe is an alleged "absence of rules" for the modelling industry. Agencies are demanding the government introduce a licences which would "guarantee professional standards".