New York Fashion Week is upon us again, and with it comes a renewed concern for the well-being of those workhorses of the runway. Particularly, the young ones. Underage in this case refers to anyone under 16, girls whom designers and modeling agencies have largely agreed they won't cast in the shows.
The New York Times' Eric Wilson points out that this is easier said than done, though. Despite industry efforts to ensure that models are healthy, diverse in race and age, and of a certain age -- there's been "a measurable improvement" in those areas -- those who don't meet the criteria continue to be tapped for the runway, whether it's because of the models themselves or those casting or managing them. The stop-gap measure this year involves the Council of Fashion Designers of America urges members to ID their models for proof of age. The CFDA's head, Diane Von Furstenberg, discovered one of her own models was 15 last year.
Still, there seems to be some disagreement in the industry about whether the age of 16 is the right cut off. Ford Models responded to the article in the Times saying that they "had not actually agreed to a specific proposal not to allow models under the age of 16 to appear in runway shows," despite being listed in a press release from the CFDA as having done so. A statement released by a spokesman at Ford continues: "We work on a case-by-case basis alongside a prospective model’s parents to make a determination as to whether they are ready to walk the runway. In most cases, the answer is no. But a select few demonstrate the know-how and maturity that are necessary to work earlier than they otherwise would.”
Furstenberg admits there's still work to be done in this regard, while others insist the focus should be on models' health rather than age. (In another move to protect the talent, this week former model Sara Ziff started the Model Alliance, an advocacy group to help fight problems models face beyond IDs for Fashion Week.)
But a question unlikely to be asked at actual shows is, as the ideal of beauty continues to get younger and younger, does the fashion industry (and its admirers) we have an altogether different -- and bigger -- problem?