Kid models in suggestive poses draw renewed criticism of fashion industry

Article by Rosemary Campbell /
Deseret Morning News /
August 18, 2011 /
Click here to view original /

Ten-year-old Thylane Lena-Rose Blondeau from France isn’t playing dress-up with other girls her age, she’s playing dress up for fashion magazines. Blondeau isn’t an anomaly. The world of fashion is targeting increasingly younger girls for its ad campaigns, reports Fox News. Young girls dressed in adult fashion, wearing makeup and posed scandalously in magazines or ads for prominent fashion designers have caused an uproar with many protesting that this practice is sexualizing girls too early, Fox News said.

Nicole Clark, a former model and filmmaker of the “Cover Girl Culture” documentary, told Fox News that what is happening is close to pedophilia. “This ‘shock and awe’ or pushing-the- envelope method is what drives the ad campaign world. The envelope has to be pushed further and further to get the same impact from audiences,” Clark said. “Now we have this 10-year-old girl vamped up to appear as a woman, highly sexualized, and I can honestly say that anyone who backs these images is a pedophile, period.” Recently pictured in the pages of French Vogue, Blondeau is positioned suggestively on furniture wearing pimp-style jewelry and provocative clothing, causing such controversy that Blondeau’s mom had to shut down her daughter’s Facebook fan page and Tumblr blog, reported Shitika Anand on Fashionising.com. The fashion industry has used young models for a long time. A 14-year-old Brooke Shields posed in a controversial Calvin Klein ad in 1980, a 13-year-old Dakota Fanning posed for fashion designer Marc Jacobs in 2007, and now her 13-year-old sister, Elle Fanning, is the new face of Jacobs’ Fall 2011 campaign, pictured in clothing much older than her years, Anand said.

One of the reasons ad campaigns target youthful models is for the press, the attention and the appeal to their adult audiences. “For a global audience who walk into these stores and spend an adequate amount in its vicinity, what does a campaign image mean? With what might look like a 14-year-old playing dress ups for a party, these campaign images are shot with a purpose,” Anand wrote. “A purpose to sell the perfume, the handbag or the cashmere knit. A teenager being the face of the brand can do two things for the consumers ? it could either put them off or make them shop up a storm.” While the use of young models makes many uncomfortable, there are those who view it as a characteristic of the fashion industry to push boundaries and be edgy and nontraditional, Fox News reported. “The creative and artistic direction in the fashion world is intended to be far afield from traditional commercial advertisement, often by being outrageous. The photographers, makeup artists and stylists will most certainly be adults, and for luxury and high fashion ads, will be very experienced ? they want the best for the ads. Does that make them pedophiles? I would strongly disagree,” Anne Riley-Katz, a Los Angeles-based fashion and business reporter, told Fox News. Still others disagree with the argument that the trend plucks away childhood at too early an age and think the debate should be less about sexualizing kids too early and more about today’s reality of kids and sexuality.

“In all the ranting and railing against a 10-year-old photographed in a boudoir-setting, lost is a discussion about the reality of kids and sexuality,” wrote Lauren Rosewarne, a social and political science lecturer at University of Melbourne, for ABC. “Talking about the evils of Vogue and we sideline a discussion about childhood having forever changed.” But Clark disagrees with all of that. She told Fox News that while there are many in the fashion industry who don’t participate in targeting youth for marketing campaigns, it’s still up to the government, parents and educators to regulate models’ ages and control what young kids are doing. For her and Anand, the dispute still lies in the early sexualizing of young people and how the fashion industry uses the controversy it sparks to make its profit. “Even though the argument lies in how childhood of these young models is being snatched away from them, there’s no arguing that it does create a fire amongst the industry,” Anand wrote. “It gets people talking and definitely augments the profile of the fashion house. Call it clever marketing strategy or deceiving advertising, the power of a mature face with a juvenile heart has never been clearer before now.”