Edinburgh-born supermodel Eunice Olumide aims to stamp out exploitation in fashion

One of Scotland’s first black supermodels is urging people working in fashion to join a union to help stamp out exploitation in the industry.

Saturday, 11th May 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Saturday, 11th May 2019, 7:00 am
Eunice Olumide at The Olumide Gallery poses next to a denim portrait of herself by aritist Ian Berry on February 20, 2017 in London, England. Pic: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images for Olumide Gallery

Edinburgh-born Eunice Olumide, MBE, an activist who has worked for top couture houses such as Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane and Vivienne Westwood, as well as appearing in magazines such as Vogue, Tatler and New York Magazine, said modelling’s insecure and temporary nature left people susceptible to bad 
treatment and missing out on basic employment rights.

Olumide, who is discussing her new book, How To Get Ahead in Fashion (Luath Press), tomorrow at the 2019 Boswell Book Festival at Dumfries House in Cumnock, Ayrshire, wrote the book as there were almost no manuals to help young people striving to get into the industry.

“Hundreds of thousands of people work in the UK fashion industry in different sectors, contributing a huge part to the economy.

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“They need some kind of support and advice because there is so much vague misinformation out there,’ said Olumide whose parents are from Nigeria.

“For example I met someone who’d handed over £2,000 to have his photos taken. He’d been taken in. I’ve never heard of any agency which would ask for this.

“In the very worst cases I came across models who had been badly treated simply because they were unsure about the boundaries of their occupation, what they might be asked to do and how their image could be misused or even exploited.

“So my primary concern is to protect people from putting themselves in situations that are not productive or necessary to achieve their dreams.

“A good way to prevent exploitation if you work in fashion is to join Equity the union who’ve been representing us for around five years.”

Olumide, praised by viewers and commentators for her contribution to BBC’s Question Time in February when she spoke about actor Liam Neeson’s controversial comments on race, said: “People working in fashion need independent advice and support especially since they rely so heavily on agents for work.”

Olumide who was scouted by one of London’s top model agencies at the age of 15 and was appointed Design Champion by the V&A Museum in Dundee last year, added: “They can be susceptible to unkindness and exploitation because you can be so easily replaced, unlike normal jobs.

“Even if you’re extremely successful you need advice and after-care on things like 
pensions.”

The book, whose dedication reads “For all those who were mistreated along the way” also includes advice on aspect of the industry such as finding an agent, identifying a personal look, building a portfolio, social media, healthy eating and dealing with rejection.

Caroline Knox, director of the festival, said Olumide’s session would be an inspiration for young people.

“I think all book festivals have a problem attracting young adults. We all have children’s programmes which prove very popular, but bringing in the teenage to 25-year-old age group is a challenge.

“Someone like Eunice serves as a great role model.”