Gucci, Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen have all pledged to stop using underage models

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Billie Bhatia
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Kering group – which include Gucci, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen – have announced that they commit to only using models over the age of 18. 

The age and well-being (both mental and physical) of models is one of the fashion industry’s most scrutinised and controversial topics of conversation. How young is too young? Who is looking after these models as they traverse the world, walking catwalk after catwalk? When so many of the world’s most celebrated models started their careers at such tender ages, have we just come to expect that this is just the way the industry works? After all Kate Moss was walking shows aged, 16, Naomi Campbell aged 15 and model of the moment Kaia Gerber – the daughter of Cindy Crawford – is 17 years old.

Looking beyond these intense and often harmful standards, though, lies another question: why are runways awash with models who do not represent the customer that will go on to buy those clothes?

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On 15 May, Kering – the luxury group behind Gucci, Balenciaga, Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen and many more – made a pledge at the Copenhagen Fashion summit: they will now only be working with models who are 18 years old or over, marking a huge movement in the fashion industry.

Marie-Claire Daveau, Kering’s chief sustainability officer, explained why the brand has decided to take this stand. “The physiological and psychological maturity of models aged over 18 seems more appropriate to the rhythm and demands that are involved in this profession,” she said.

Alongside LVMH, Kering hold the biggest houses in their repertoire – which is another reason why chairman and CEO Francois Henri-Pinault has enacted this change. “We believe that we have a responsibility to put forward the best possible practices in the luxury sector,” he said, “and we hope to create a movement that will encourage others to follow suit.” 

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Balenciaga aw18
Balenciaga aw18 

This is, undeniably, a positive change in the industry. However, one wonders why designers rely on such youth to represent their brands: not only does it fail to resonate with their consumer from a personal point of view, but it also places a huge pressure on women to appear young, thus creating unrealistic goals and ideas around ageing.

Representation of women in the media (catwalks and campaigns included) has been limited for many year, concentrating on only one depiction of beauty. And, whilst Kering is leading a change in the industry, we still have a long way to go until the fashion world feels truly inclusive. 

And that’s why Stylist has launched its Love Women campaign: to make a difference.

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Our editor-in-chief Lisa Smosarski has also made five pledges to Stylist readers:

1. We will ensure the women you see on our pages represent all women – inclusive of ethnicity, body shape, sexuality, age and disability. When we create content and ideas, we will ensure that all women are represented at the table. We commit to featuring one fashion or beauty photoshoot a month that uses real, diverse women.

2. We will ensure that we never sell an impossible dream. We believe in aspiration, but not in selling a lie. We will work with influencers, celebrities and other partners to encourage them to reveal their truths, too.

3. We will celebrate the so-called flaws of women to prove the normality in all of our bodies. We will run videos, photoshoots and honest accounts of our bodies and how they behave.

4. We will hold regular huddles with our advertisers and brand partners to challenge the way they portray and reflect women in their branding and advertising. We will call out and challenge brands, media and people who refuse to represent women with respect and truth. We will call on the government to support our goals.

5. Through insight and anecdote, we will teach everyone about the issues facing women, what needs to be done and how we can all work together to resolve this self-esteem crisis.

Find out more about Stylist’s Love Women initiative here.

Images: Getty