Banning underage models
Have you heard the news? Luxury conglomerate Kering announced it would no longer employ models under the age of 18, from the Autumn 2020 season onwards. This is not insignificant as its brands include Gucci, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga, so this decision is bound to be influential.
The banning of underage models is positive in several ways. For one thing, there are few other industries requiring young people to work, often for long stretches away from home and adhering to such a punishing schedule. Although agencies act on behalf of the young models, they also have a commercial interest in securing as much work as possible, therefore it is challenging to provide unbiased duty of care.
Some of us have made quite different decisions regarding our bodies once we’ve become adults. It’s one thing to take a risk with the way you display your body to invest in future success, but if you’ve taken a risk with your body for commercial use and it hasn’t paid dividends, perhaps there is potential for more serious regret later…
Another reason I commend the Kering decision is because of the misalignment of models to target market. Research actually exists now to demonstrate that we are more likely to buy something if we can see it on someone who resembles us. In a talk I attended last year, Caryn Franklin said women are 300% more likely to purchase if we feel a connection between ourselves and the model.
To see a dress worn by another woman who is fully formed, with hips and a belly, gives a woman an idea of how the dress will sit on her. There’s little point in showing a high end dress, requiring an adult budget to purchase, on a teenage body as many women simply dismiss the idea of buying something they cannot see themselves wearing.
Sadly, some women believe that the teenage models posing as adult women, are in fact adults. If comparing themselves to the teenage body, a person can mistakenly believe their own body has aged prematurely, particularly if their preference is for an androgynous rather than a womanly body. Plenty of women don’t develop curves until they’re in their twenties. Although males may suffer similarly, the way clothes sit on the female body varies more than it does for men, so the difference is more stark.
On the upside, there is a new respect for and celebration of the mature woman in mainstream media, including in fashion shoots and on the catwalk. I commend the banning of underage models and hope to see more diversity in fashion. To lead through employing models of all ages seems like a no-brainer to me, particularly when it is now proven to yield higher profits for the fashion labels.