In a continued effort to course correct its legacy, publisher Condé Nast is setting a new age requirement for the models that appear across the pages of its many titles. In a piece published in the September issue of Vogue, writer Maya Singer explained the underpinnings of a still very much imperfect industry, and what Condé Nast is vowing to do to create lasting change.
"No more: It’s not right for us, it’s not right for our readers, and it’s not right for the young models competing to appear in these pages. While we can’t rewrite the past, we can commit to a better future," Singer writes of the new guidelines set forth by the publishing monolith. The publication notes that the modeling industry's own #MeToo movement influenced its fresh new code of conduct, which includes model approval of poses and clothing. "In recognition of the unique vulnerability of minors thrown into a career where they have little control and where abuse has been all too commonplace, the vendor code of conduct stipulates that no model under the age of 18 will be photographed for editorial (unless he or she is the subject of an article, in which case the model will be both chaperoned and styled in an age-appropriate manner)," she continued.
CFDA president and CEO Steven Kolb is on board, too. Eleven years ago, Kolb helped establish a runway standard that said no models under the age of 16 could be cast in shows. In 2012, president Diane von Furstenberg reissued the organization's health and age requirements ahead of Fashion Week. That (unfortunately) didn't stop models from dieting, nor then 14-year old Israeli model Sofia Mechetner from walking for Dior in 2015 (or Kaia Gerber from posing for CR Fashion Book when she was just 13). "Young models are still developing. There can be a lack of the confidence, strength, experience, and maturity it takes to deal with the pressures of this work," Kolb told Vogue. "The CFDA supports the recommendation of raising the minimum age — we want young models to have the time to come into their own so they feel safe and in charge in the workplace."
That this is a good thing is self-evident, even if it means celebrity offspring models like Gerber will no longer be able to pose for Vogue until she turns 18 in two years. But when it comes to models, why can't fashion seem to get it right? Their unethical treatment by the industry has been documented for decades: Take this interview with Calvin Klein from 1992, in which he says of Kate Moss, "Kate has that quality of [a] child-woman thing — which touches a nerve with men, especially — that's always on the edge a little bit. You hope to do something that stimulates people, that stimulates their imagination, and that gets noticed."
To paraphrase model-cum-chef Daniel de la Falaise: Modeling has always been a terrifying process similar to being thrust into the deep end of life. It's glamorous at times, but mostly it's a serious test of survival. For so long, no one seemed to care if models were forced into sexualized poses with people outside of their age bracket, if they worked more hours than they were legally supposed to (and fainted because of it), or if they died on the job. Remember when 150 models were forced to sit in a dark stairwell with no food or water for three hours while the casting directors went to lunch? And nobody believed them?
Don't forget: Models took down more than a handful of the industry's most powerful figures by advocating for themselves. As a result, New York State assemblywoman Nily Rozic introduced a bill in October 2017 that would help protect models from harassment. It has yet to pass.
The move to only employ people of legal age (and treat them as such) is as worthy of applause as it is obvious — because a child should never have even been subjected to withstand the tides of something that, by nature, sets people up to fail in the first place.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).