Vogue calls on the fashion industry to adopt Conde Nast’s 18+ modeling standard in a new editorial
Here’s a fashion-forward idea: using actual adults to model clothes targeted to grown women.
Vogue publisher Conde Nast International first announced in February that it will no longer work with models under 18. And on Thursday, Vogue posted an article exploring its new code of conduct, which appears in the September issue featuring Beyonce, that calls on the fashion industry to follow suit.
Turns out, many of the dolled-up faces popping up in ads and on runways are a lot younger than they look. Cindy Crawford’s 16-year-old daughter Kaia Gerber stars in Karl Lagerfeld’s Fall 2018 ad campaign. Kendall Jenner, now 22, made her runway modeling debut at just 15 at Sherri Hill’s New York Fashion Week show. Christie Brinkley’s daughter Sailor Brinkley-Cook, now 20, started modeling when she was 15, including shoots with In The Gloss and Teen Vogue.
Kaia Gerber for Karl Lagerfeld's Fall/Winter 2018 campaign pic.twitter.com/mIxtRKkuJu
— Kaia Gerber Today (@KaiaGerberToday) July 18, 2018
“Vogue, along with a number of other publications, has played a role in making it routine for children—since that’s what they are—to be dressed and marketed as glamorous adults,” writes Vogue contributor Maya Singer, calling back to when a then 14-year-old Brooke Shields graced the cover in February 1980.
“Since then, models in their mid-teens have appeared in many of our fashion editorials. No more: It’s not right for us, it’s not right for our readers, and it’s not right for the young models competing to appear in these pages,” Singer adds. “While we can’t rewrite the past, we can commit to a better future.”
Conde Nast previously announced it would no longer working with models under 16 or “who appear to have an eating disorder” in May 2012. It updated its code of conduct earlier this year after the rising #MeToo movement included allegations of sexual misconduct against famed fashion photographers Mario Testino and Bruce Weber, who have both shot for Conde Nast. Both men have denied the claims, but Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour revealed in a January editorial that Conde Nast has put its working relationship with the photographers “on hold,” and that: “All models appearing in fashion shoots commissioned by Condé Nast must be 18 years of age or older. The only exceptions will be those appearing as themselves as part of a profile, news story, or similar content, and they will be required to have a chaperone on set at all times.”
Conde Nast will no longer allow alcohol on its sets, and any shoot involving nudity, sheer clothing, lingerie, swimwear, simulated drug or alcohol use, or sexually suggestive poses must be approved in advance by the subject.
But Yolanda Hadid recently told Moneyish that she wouldn’t let her daughters Gigi and Bella start working until they turned 18. “I’ve always been very strict,” she said. “I remember saying to Gigi, ‘You cannot work until you’re 18’ and she would say, ‘Well this other girl’s working at 16’ and she would come and show me pictures of girls that are working. I said ‘I don’t care.’ I’ve been in this industry. I know what it’s like.”
And Gigi thanked her for it. “Four years later, sometimes she [Gigi] looks at me and says ‘thank God that you gave me an extra two years to grow and play volleyball.’ I feel like if you start your kids a little bit later and your kids have a better sense of self, they’re tougher. This industry is really, really judgemental on the way you look and sometimes it’s really hard to handle.”
Stories of burnout—and worse—are rife in a modeling industry filled with vulnerable mid-teens. https://t.co/kjAtXCPJj6
— Vogue Magazine (@voguemagazine) August 16, 2018
So how did underage models start dominating runways and fashion glossies’ pages? After the 90s rise of supermodels like Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Kate Moss and Tyra Banks turned many models into household names, casting directors began constantly looking for fresh new faces — like Karen Nelson, who began modeling at 15. “I was constantly, on a daily basis, sexually harassed, followed … I would go to castings where people would ask me to take my clothes off. I was often made to feel very uncomfortable,” the now 39-year-old mother of two told the “Today” show on Thursday.
“It’s an ugly side of a very beautiful business,” she added, recalling how young models are forced to “work until burnout; not paid on time; not paid at all; made to feel their body is not beautiful, and get an eating disorder because of it.”
Vogue bookings director Helena Suric explained to the “Today” show on Thursday that using underage models is a systemic problem as the $2.4 trillion global fashion industry (of which U.S. modeling agencies make up a $1 billion piece) has grown.
“The modeling industry is quite large. There are a lot of fashion shows. And in order to fill these fashion shows, increasingly younger models were scouted,” said Suric, comparing it to a wheel where models aged 14, 15 and 16 would come in and do a few fashion shows one season, and then move on – paving the way for the next group of teens to take their place.
Plus, teens often haven’t fully developed women’s bodies yet, which means they can wear the size 0 sample sizes that aren’t realistic for an older woman with curves. Yet while it was easier to find models small enough to wear designer looks on the runway or for photo shoots by drawing from a younger pool, this has also perpetuated fashion’s long-running problem with promoting unrealistic body images for women.
“What we’re hoping to see is that not only other publications follow, but that designers follow, and the modeling industry follows, and all the people in the fashion industry,” Suric added. “This is a very global and fragmented industry. There’s not a governing body that dictates models or what their age should be. So we’re hoping that as leaders in the industry, others will look to us and take this and go from there.”
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