How old were you when you decided what career path you wanted to take? For some people it can take a while to figure out - while others know from a very young age what they want to do with the rest of their lives. In the modelling industry the younger you are when you have your first test shot - the better. Starting from a young age allows years of developing a brand and becoming confident in front of a camera. However - particularly in the past 3 years - I've noticed the global debates questioning -at what point does young become too young?
Kate Moss - arguably the most iconic and influential model of the 1990's and early 2000's - was a mere girl when she first stood in front of the camera. Sophie Calle's aptly named 'fifteen' collection of photographs show a young Moss at the start gun of her career. These candid images of the fresh faced London girl show a timid creature unaware of the impression she would later make on the industry. They juxtapose the stark images she is possibly better known for - taken in her mid-twenties that are said to have defined the British pop culture movements of the past two decades. This poses the question: would she have made such an impression had she not have grown up in a studio?
Some would argue not - which is perhaps why today’s most desirable models are no older than their mid-twenties. Kendall Jenner, Edie Campbell, So Ra Choi and Tyg Davison- the list goes on. They're found on every advertisement worldwide - stamping the covers of major publications everywhere. Despite their young age - which in any other industry may see you stuck at the bottom of the ladder- these models are at the height of their careers and are the go to mannequins for major fashion houses such as Chanel and Marc Jacobs.
Arguably their supermodel status comes from their influential families or the millions of followers hanging on their every word on social media platforms - but what the internet gives it soon takes away. Initially, I had always thought that models in fashion were notoriously thin because of the media's influence. Vogue, Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar - all major publications that practically handed you a bottle of diet pills and a bin to empty your stomach. Their models were the best form of torture for impressionable girls with body issues and the desire to look 'skinny'. While I realise that this isn't entirely untrue of today’s editions my research into "the effect the media has on models' place in society" for photography last year found- that although there are signs of body shaming in some (lower end) publications - the real critics were the readers behind the keyboards. A topic addressed in December's issue of Vogue.
Being an avid reader of Vogue and follower of supermodel Gigi Hadid, I was ecstatic to discover that in December the two forces had paired up. However it wasn't until I started reading the article that accompanied the images of Hadid that the novelty began to wear off. Gigi is a highly desirable model and the face of a multitude of campaigns including; Tom Ford, Levi's, Versace and Topshop (to name just a few). It's safe to say she is far from having a weight problem. I mean Victoria's secret doesn't hand out wings to anybody wanting to walk a runway. I'm sure cleanses weren't part of her New Year’s resolutions. So it's not hard to understand why the quote "online trolls... repeating that she was "too fat to model"" boiled my blood. Although not the typical UK size 4 found on catwalks - Gigi is only a size 8 yet she was penalised for being fat. Reading this - it's not hard to see why there are so many underweight frames in the industry.
Perhaps why last April, France decided to take action. Banning girls with a BMI under 18 from fashion shows in order to "combat anorexia". Threatening to charge agencies with fines up to 75,000 euros if they employed models that were considered "too thin faced". This was said to have changed the body image of fashion shows in France and was proposed to "have a symbolic impact on the fashion industry" overall” given Paris's role within it”. Other countries have since taken action or, at least, debated whether they should take action and ban models under the age of 18 from shows. Of course it makes sense that girls as young as 13 shouldn't be put under pressure to be "skinny" but isn't an adolescent frame the desired one of most fashion houses? Surely 15-year- olds already have these figures so there should be no pressure put on them. That just seems like common sense but this isn't exactly the case. Even the youngest of the models are told that they have to "reach bone". While a global titan like Gigi is able to brush off the negative feedback others aren't as lucky. The trolling movement is proof that it's so easy for people to share opinions with the world without thinking of the consequences - seen in Hadid's case. Being a 20-years-old size 8 model - it's evident she isn't too young to be walking in shows or too skinny so there shouldn't be a problem. Yet she was told she wasn't thin enough. So does that mean that we are to blame?
Like I said I used to think that major publications were accountable for the lack of "normal sized" models but now I realise this isn't the case. Vogue seemed to applaud Hadid's influence on the catwalk describing her as "filling clothes in an enviable, womanly way". Balmain's creative director also added that "thanks to Gigi, we're finding girls on the runway that are beautiful and look healthy at the same time." Evidently they're supporting this step in the right direction. So why it is still considered a taboo to be a size 8 on the runway and why does Britain feel there is a need for a proposed legislation banning models under the age of 18 from walking major fashion shows? Clearly other attempts to change the type of models found at London fashion week haven't worked in the past. Although conceivably the voluntary code of conduct was perhaps too timid (hence the word voluntary) - all the same 14-year-olds continue to appear at London fashion week. According to Caroline Nokes - a Conservative MP - the legislation will "make sure that you weren't seeing 15 to 18-year-olds with a BMI of 15.6 being told they had to lose weight".
So surely this would suggest the legislation is more concerned with the BMI of the models than their age right? Only Nelson then argues a minimum body mass index wouldn't work because "it doesn't represent their body type". To me the whole things seems confused - they're aiming to reduce the amount of models with a low BMI and yet are targeting the young rather than those with an unhealthy body mass index.
While of course I can see the reasoning and I agree that BMI's don't represent body types I can't see why the younger of the models are being targeted. Yes I can understand that it would be disconcerting to see an unhealthy 15-year-old on a runway but banning them from fashion shows won't solve eating disorders. All teenage girls are impressionable but why should the healthy under 18-year-olds be reprimanded. Are we forgetting how old Kate Moss was when she started her career or Gigi Hadid? Gigi - I can't stress enough - a healthy size 8? Where would they be if this legislation had always been in place? I'm sure they would still be around but their careers would have taken longer to mature. Meaning they may have been coming to the end of their careers before they had really taken off. It's no secret the modelling industry has a certain cut off age in the other direction - of course with a few exceptions. So shouldn't Britain change their, oh so very British, way of beating around the bush and simply state they want underweight girls banned from catwalks not young ones? Personally I think this would be far more effective.