Vogue is shaking up the modeling industry.
The famed fashion magazine just announced that readers will no longer see models under 18-years-old on its pages. It’s part of the publication’s commitment to change modeling standards within the industry, a cause which is detailed fully in a new article on Vogue‘s website.
In the piece, the publication explores the vicious cycle that exists in the modeling industry today. Models are approached as teens by agencies, they work at an exhaustive pace (sometimes up to 20-hours on set) and without much (or any) say in what they’re expected to do.
It explains that fashion brands, which once desired curvier supermodels like Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford on their runways and made garments tailored just for them, have shifted to have upwards of 40-50 models in each runway show. And since designers now seek out a higher number of models, they often book the only girls who can fit into those small sample sizes — teenagers.
“It used to be, the fittings would take forever,” David Bonnouvrier, cofounder and CEO of DNA Model Management in New York told Vogue. “Now the girls are cast to fit the dress.”
And the relentless pace of the industry today has created unsafe working conditions for teenage models. Andreea Diaconu, who has been the face of Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Belstaff, recalls the hardships she dealt with early on, saying a photographer ask her to pose topless at 14 and she was told to socialize at clubs at age 16 where she was handed drugs and alcohol (which she discarded).
Another risk? An environment that creates harmful body image issues for still-growing teenagers. Karen Elson, who has worked with every big-name photographer, stylist, editor and brand (including Jean Paul Gaultier, Louis Vuitton, Versace and Chanel) talked about the pressures of staying a sample size.
After going on birth control to fight acne, she noticed her breast and hips got bigger. “I’d hear comments. One of my reps told me he’d give me $20 for every pound I lost,” she said. As a result, in 1998 she was actually cut from a show in Milan after gaining 10 pounds, and the news was leaked to the press. “It was on the news—that I was too fat to walk in Milan. I mean . . . that’s just wrong.”
While Vogue attempts to shift the modeling industry mindset, it also recognizes that for years, it played along with this unfair use of employing children as models and dressing them up as adults. It all started after Brooke Shields appeared on the February 1980 cover (at 14), but it vows it’s regular use of teenage models stops now. (Under this new era, top runway models like Kaia Gerber, 16, will have to wait to make their Vogue US debuts.) The website does have a gallery showing all the actress’s and models who have posed on the over under 21.
“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. While we can’t rewrite the past, we can commit to a better future,” the article reads.
So what does Vogue‘s commitment mean for the industry? The Council of Fashion Designers of America supports its decision and its recommendation to raise the minimum modeling age.
Model Alliance launched a Respect Program which is a set of working condition standards for models. And two modeling agencies, DNA Models and The Society Management, won’t submit models under 18 for runway shows in North America (unless said models have already modeled in Fashion Week).
“Let’s get back to believing in models and developing them,” Bonnouvrier said. “Let’s get back to a model being a muse and not a coat hanger.”
Earlier this year in response to the #MeToo movement, Condé Nast (the publisher of Vogue) laid out a new set of guidelines for photo shoots. First, they agreed they would no longer work with two of their regular photographers, Mario Testino and Bruce Webber, after they were accused of sexual harassment by dozens of male assistants. And in addition to increasing the minimum modeling age, they announced that models will have private changing rooms on set and “allowances” for approval on poses and clothing.