Models form rights group ahead of New York Fashion Week

From left, Doutzen Kroes, Sara Ziff, Coco Rocha, and Jenna Sauers attend the Model Alliance launch in New York on Feb. 6, 2012, in a photo posted on Rocha's Instagram account.
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(CBS) Fashion models launched a rights group on Monday seeking to improve standards in their industry, just days before they hit the catwalk at New York Fashion Week.

The nonprofit organization is seeking workplace standards including backstage privacy to stop unauthorized nude photos and a program to provide confidential advice for dealing with sexual harassment, Reuters reports.

Special section: New York Fashion Week

The Model Alliance was founded by Sara Ziff, 29, who has worked as a model since she was 14.

"Most models start their adult careers as minors and they labor in an unregulated business knowing that they are highly replaceable," Ziff said in a statement.

"While I have been very fortunate in my modeling career, I have also seen firsthand how the industry often disregards child labor law, lacks financial transparency, encourages eating disorders and blindly tolerates sexual abuse in the workplace," she said on the Alliance's website. "The lucrative careers of high-profile supermodels misrepresent the reality for most working models, who are young, mostly female and uniquely vulnerable.

The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CDFA) said it has offered Ziff advice in starting the group, according to Reuters.

"Change comes from action and the Model Alliance can be a catalyst for change," said CFDA chief executive Steven Kolb.

Designer Diane von Furstenberg, who is president of the CFDA, is reportedly working with the Model Alliance during Fashion Week to implement a rule that clears the backstage area at the fashion shows of photographers and non-essential staff while models are changing clothes.

Attendees at the organization's official launch included Ziff, models Doutzen Kroes, Crystal Renn, Coco Rocha and former model/fashion writer Jenna Sauers.

New York Fashion Week kicks off in New York  on Thursday and runs through Feb. 15, followed by events in London, Paris and Milan.

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