The “it girls” of couture are getting younger and younger.
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While models in stilettos, dark eye makeup, and thousand-dollar dresses might look like they’re in their 20s, it’s more likely that they are only 13. French Vogue even featured a 10-year-old in a 2011 spread straight out of Nabokov’s daydreams.
In January 2011, the Council of Fashion Designers of America announced guidelines banning under-16s from modelling in Fashion Week runway shows.
But as Kate Moss, Christy Turlington, and Tyra Banks (to name a few) were all discovered in their early teens, many agencies and designers scoff at the idea. Some even lie about models’ ages.
So the models get younger, the material gets sexier, and the apparel business dares authorities to investigate its use of young girls in sexualized situations.
Thylane Loubry Blondeau, who began walking the runway at five, was only 10 years old in the Vogue spread.
Veronika Loubry later posted on Facebook:
hey guys im the mum of thylane something going 's wrong at the moment with thylane and bad personn in usa about pictures she make's 8 months ago for vogue ,,thylane doesn't know about the buzz and i want to protect her from the deapest of my heart ,,, she's so young ,, so we are going to close this accompte for a while ,,i know all of you are good person who like her so i send you a big kiss,,thanks
(The above spelling is reproduced verbatim).
At 15, Brooke Shields appeared in the iconic 1980 ads for Calvin Klein which ran with the tag line:
'You wanna know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.'
15 years later, the U.S. Justice Department investigated Calvin Klein's denim ads, starring 15- and 16-year-old models, to see whether they broke child pornography laws. Criminal charges were never filed.
'The controversy didn't surprise me because I'd had experience with it since I was 11,' Shields told the New York Post. 'The pants came above my belly button--even the one with my shirt open, you didn't see anything. Compared to the things I'd done before, this was like being in winter gear.'
As a 10-year-old, Shields was photographed in the nude by Gary Gross. When exhibited in London's Tate Modern in 2009, a livid critic announced 'Putting a sign on the door like that means every pedophile in the land will head straight to that room.'
The photograph was removed following a visit by the police.
Sexually explicit or not, younger girls are becoming the face of adult brands. Marc Jacobs used Elle Fanning for his Fall 2011 line at 13.
Jacobs has a thing for the Fanning sisters. Dakota Fanning was the face of the designer's Spring line in 2007, when she was only 12.
Fanning acknowledges that a little girl in high couture was a strange combination.
'I was 12,' she told W Magazine. 'I was always into fashion because my mum has always been interested in fashion. She majored in fashion merchandising in college, and it's always been something we have in common. When I did that first campaign for Marc Jacobs, I wasn't really old enough to wear the clothes. He made all the clothes from the runway in my size.'
Actresses like Chloe Moretz (below) have become known for their red carpet couture. Moretz is only 15.
Cindy Crawford's 10-year-old daughter, Kaia Gerber, made her modelling debut in January for Young Versace.
Underage models aren't all members of the Hollywood elite. Steven Meisel created an ad for Prada in which Ondria Hardin, 13 at the time, and two other teens seductively stroke themselves in designer threads.
Christy Turlington, Kate Moss, Gisele Bündchen, Karolina Kurkova and Chanel Iman are a few of the many models who got their starts at 13 or 14 year old. Girls on the runway often range from 14 to 19.
Furstenberg, the president of the CFDA, was embarrassed in 2011, however, when then-15-year-old Hailey Clauson walked in her show.
'It is to my horror, that I discovered last Friday that in spite of me repeating that to my production and casting people, one girl slipped through the cracks. One girl who will be 16 in March walked my show last week! ... I was horrified and terribly embarrassed. From now on I will instruct my casting people to demand IDs. I encourage you to do the same. I am trying to be a good leader and set an example...so please please accept my apology.'
Even though she still sleeps with a teddy bear, Clauson has been in some incredibly mature photoshoots.
Clauson shot a spread for Pop Magazine in which she appears to be held in a sexualized choke hold. Other photos in the shoot are with nude porn stars.
In August of 2011, Clauson's parents filed a suit against photographer Jason Lee Parry and Urban Outfitters for producing a tee-shirt with provocative photos of Hailey.
Ford models disregarded its CFDA pledge and used under-16 models Ondria Hardin, Kermi Otashliyska, and Thairine Garcia in various shows in 2011.
Ford explained in a statement:
We take the age and maturity of our models very seriously. We work on a case-by-case basis alongside a prospective model's parents to make a determination as to whether they are ready to walk the runway. In most cases, the answer is no. But a select few demonstrate the know-how and maturity that are necessary to work earlier than they otherwise would.
Sestic walked for Prabal Gurung, DKNY, and Marc by Marc Jacobs in fall 2011. Since under-16 models aren't illegal there are no repercussions, and thus no pressure for change.
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