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High fashion models: underage and underfed

by on December 2, 2015

I wasn’t aware of the existence of the Parliamentary Group on Body Image until seeing this piece in yesterday’s Guardian which highlights issues that the Group is looking into regarding ‘underage and underfed’ models within the fashion industry.

There has been talk in the past about banning models under the age of 16 from the catwalk (and this may be the law in some countries) but the evidence given to the Group mentioned the use of girls as young as 14. If you look at this modelling website, the advice to those wanting to know if they can be a high fashion model states that the ‘age range [for girls] can be from 14 to 25. For guys the age range is more flexible and they can start from the age of 16 until their late 40’s’. Not for the first time, gender differences come into play with male models being told they can have a longer and ‘career’ than their female counterparts.

Dunja Knezevic, who founded the modelling union at Equity, has called for a crackdown on underage models on the catwalks. She described a disturbing trend of “cheap labour, 14-year-olds from Siberia who come over, are paid badly and end up even owing money to the agencies because when they grow, develop into women, they can’t fit the sizes”.  It seems that one of the (many) issues with the use of young girls as models is that it creates an abnormal and unrealistic expectation of shape and size which is impossible to achieve as the body develops with age through puberty and beyond. Another model, Hayley Hasselhoff, said that she had ‘heard of models who started at 14-year-old with such small hips, and then at 16 agents said ‘are you slacking off?’ and they would say back, ‘what, no, I’m just growing, I’m developing.’ Worrying. As is the observation from one of the witnesses that representatives of the fashion agencies did not stay, after they had given their evidence to the Group, to hear the personal testimony of the models.

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