By Takeira Walls

In 2008, IMG Fashion Asia Pacific stated it would ban models under the age of 16 following controversy over the published, provocative image of 14 year old Polish IMG model, Monika Jagaciak. Detailing Jagaciak under a shower in a wet swim suit, IMG released multiple images to a Sydney newspaper which ran a cover story featuring Jagaciak—questioning if she was too young for fashion week.

Later the CFDA updated their guidelines to encourage designers and agencies against runway use of models younger than 16. Taking a different approach from the strict enforcement IMG used, the CFDA allowed designers to ultimately make their own decisions.

In 2012, Marc Jacobs received backlash for his blatant casting of Thairine Garcia and Ondria Hardin who were 14 and 15 at the time. Despite Jacobs’ response, he made multiple points that challenged the logic behind the dismissal of underage modeling. “I do the show the way I think it should be, and not the way somebody tells me it should be,” Mr. Jacobs said. “If their parents are willing to let them do a show, I don’t see any reason that it should be me
who tells them that they can’t.” Jacobs continued to challenge criticism by acknowledging the universal use of child actors and child models for catalogs and runways, which is of no difference to his use of young models.

Beyond the controversial associations, the professional integrity and moral upholding of the general public seems to be pushed more than the creative freedom of both the designer and the model. If there’s parental consent and personal interest, should public responsibility supersede creative rights?

Understanding opposing perspectives, the issue doesn’t rest on the singularity of age but the territory that comes with the profession. “This is the day that modeling moved from being a girls’ profession to a women’s profession,” said Susan Scafidi, the academic director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham University. “There is no doubt models who have started at 14 have gone on to great careers, but it’s just too young to be subjected to this industry.” The CFDA also noted their suggested age guideline stemmed from belief that at age 16, models are more likely to have the maturity to deal with being rejected by designers or treated disrespectfully by photographers. Promising to aid in the structuring of mentorship programs and healthy backstage environments, the real matter isn’t the age of the model, but the conditions in which their industry promotes them to work in.

Exceeding professional opinion, here’s gathered insight from emerging models on age.

@benediktebee | Scoop models Cph: “I think they should at least be 14.

@sierra_v | MSA Model- NYC / MMA Model- Philadelphia: “I believe any age younger
than 14 is too young to start modeling (fashion). Unfortunately, rejection is a big part of this
industry. Confidence, humility, and staying true to yourself are very important to keep throughout
a modeling career. I started modeling at age 16 and I personally don’t think I could have started
any younger.”

@thelittlelivv | Vision Los Angeles: I honestly think it depends hugely on the person. I
never think it is OKAY for PARENTS to push their children into modeling, whether they are 5
or 16.. Modeling is something someone has to decide they WANT and love In order for it to be a
passion filled career for one. I would say if it is someone’s dream, most agencies only accept 16
and up. 16 is a great age to start testing and warming up to cameras, but also at 16 so many things
are still changing because of puberty. So it’s a good time for PRACTICE but I really don’t think
anyone should start traveling or striving to hit their prime until they are 17 or 18 years of age. 1
year makes SO much of a difference. Plus this is the age where you can legally make your own
decisions and learn to become independent.

@yaniicharms_: As a new model to the industry I realized that being young is better. I am 19
years old and as submitting to agencies the inquiries for females are 13-21 and for males 16-24. As
the time goes by I feel myself getting older and not getting represented. Time is ticking. You have
a better chance of being signed at an early age if you have “THE LOOK”. In my opinion their is no
age to young to be a model. That’s like telling a child actor, dancer, singer etc that they shouldn’t
be in such and such industry because they are to young.

@rowenaxikang | Chadwick Models: I would say under 15 is probably too young.