Vogue magazine – the holy grail of fashion geared towards women but found on nightstands of teens everywhere – has made a pact: no more models under the age of 16. And no more emaciated ones, at that. That’s not to say we’ll be seeing “real” body types or even grey-haired women in the pages of Vogue any time soon but hey, it’s a step in the right direction. Because, really, what the hell is a 14-year-old girl doing on the cover of Vogue anyway? (Check out the April edition of Vogue Italia, pictured left, for one such example.)
Condé Nast International chairman Jonathan Newhouse made the announcement earlier today, explaining that all 19 international editions of Vogue have agreed to stop using underage models, as well as those who appear to have an eating disorder. “Vogue editors around the world want the magazines to reflect their commitment to the health of the models who appear on the pages and the well-being of their readers,” he said.
The cynic in me scoffed when I first read that it’s the editors themselves get to decide which models appear to have an eating disorder (as if I trust Anna Wintour, for instance, to make that call without considering what sells). But then I decided to get over it and celebrate this bold new initiative; it may not change the fashion and modeling industries overnight, but it’s a start. And we’re certainly in need of stricter rules – there’s no debating that.
We recently wrote about Girl Model, a chilling documentary that follows jaded modeling scout (and former model) Ashley Arbaugh, who heads to Siberia for the next It girl and who finds 13-year-old Nadya Vall. I won’t get into all the details here but suffice to say it’s depressing stuff. Closer to home, we have the likes of Marc Jacobs, who ignored the Council of Fashion Designers of America guidelines and hired two girls in their early teens to walk his recent runway show (reportedly without pay). He figured if these girls’ parents are letting them walk, who’s he to say no?
Things have gotten so out of control that in February, model-activist Sara Ziff launched Model Alliance, a workers’ rights organization for fashion models in the U.S. She’s supported by well known models like Shalom Harlow, Coco Rocha and Chanel Iman, among others. At the launch party, Harlow told the crowd: “The issue of an underage girl working without any kind of mentoring or chaperoning is really critical, because at that age you’re still learning boundaries, you’re still learning how to stand in your right and say no.”
Clearly there’s lots more to be done, and so kudos to Vogue for bringing the issue to light and implementing this new policy with regards to underage models. For those interested in fuller details, here’s the actual six-point pact:
1. We will not knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder. We will work with models who, in our view, are healthy and help to promote a healthy body image.
2. We will ask agents not to knowingly send us underage girls and casting directors to check IDs when casting shoots, shows and campaigns.
3. We will help to structure mentoring programs where more mature models are able to give advice and guidance to younger girls, and we will help to raise industry-wide awareness through education, as has been integral to the Council of Fashion Designers of America Health Initiative.
4. We will encourage producers to create healthy backstage working conditions, including healthy food options and a respect for privacy. We will encourage casting agents not to keep models unreasonably late.
5. We encourage designers to consider the consequences of unrealistically small sample sizes of their clothing, which limits the range of women who can be photographed in their clothes, and encourages the use of extremely thin models.
6. We will be ambassadors for the message of healthy body image.