The fashion industry is working hard to maintain an aura of prestige and glamour, but for models on the inside, reality is quite different
The idea of the fashion world as a nirvana of glamour and allure is further promoted by fashion models themselves, many of whom have become celebrities in social media by exhibiting their luxurious personal life directly to millions of followers.
For adolescents blessed with good looks, the fashion world offers quick path to glamour and wealth, but taking a closer look behind the facade reveals chilling tales of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse.
According to a survey conducted on sexual harassment by Model Alliance, Northeastern University and Harvard revealed that 68% of the models they asked suffer from anxiety and/or depression. Moreover, 87% are under pressure to change nude at a job or casting without advance notice while a staggering 28% have been pressured to have with sex with someone at work.
In a Vogue interview, British supermodel Karen Elson, is not afraid to speak out about the need for change in the industry and the inhuman backstage working conditions for models.
“I cannot tell you, in my younger days, how many times I would catch photographers taking photos of me getting undressed”. — Karen Elson
To make matters worse, about half of female models are between 13–16 years old of age when they start their modelling career. Motivated by money and fame, many get into the business knowing little or nothing about what to expect on the job.
So what does this have to do with Virtual Reality?
Virtual Reality is an immersive technology able to create realistic simulations of real-life scenarios. At GMETRI, we leverage this technology to create powerful training scenarios for various purposes. We are currently developing an online VR training experience, which lets users experience typical scenarios in a fashion models life.
What should I wear to a casting? What do I do if someone asks me to undress at a casting? The VR experience contains different training scenarios which cover relevant topics, such as “Taking Polaroids”, “Going to castings”, “Doing Photoshoots”. It aims at giving aspiring fashion models a peek into the world they are about to enter, provide practical advice and possibly prepare them for some of the problematic situations that can take place on the job.
One of the main obstacles to combating the problem of sexual harassment in the modelling industry is the low incidence of reporting. The low reporting in the industry has various reasons, most of which VR will not be able to solve. Nonetheless, it is our hope that by having already experienced the scenarios in VR, models can easier recognize and identify ethical and sexual violations when they happen, which can have a positive impact on reporting. The experience also gives guidelines on how to react such scenarios, so that models can know what to do, should they occur in a real life context.
So can VR help models in the fashion industry?
In our opinion, the problems in the fashion industry spread far beyond the reach of VR, but we hope this training experience can have a positive impact by educating established and aspiring models, and by giving “outsiders” a peek into the realities of the profession.
The experience is a demo of the full VR experience which will be part of a crowdfunding campaign later this