The issue of too-young models has been the talk of the fashion industry since a series of teen model controversies compelled the CFDA to release a set of guidelines banning models under 16. But the loose rules haven't solved the problem of young, naive girls being tossed into the modeling deep end -- and there are some unfortunate explanations as to why the problem persists.
According to Yasmin Le Bon, a veteran of the modeling industry, the designers keep on casting young girls for one reason: They're cheap. At a student talk at Condé Nast College on Wednesday, Le Bon stated:
"I think that it is wrong that young girls are now opening shows... It's hyped up as a discovery of the next big thing, but actually the designers are penny-pinching."
Young girls as money-savers may sound crass and cynical, but it might also be accurate. 17-year-old model Hailey Hasbrook made waves last year when she revealed that she worked grueling 17-hour days during Fashion Week only to be paid in "trade," not money. Afterward, Hailey gushed in an interview, "I literally got a whole outfit from Marc Jacobs -- a bag, dress, jacket and shoes."
Some industry insiders claim that the standard of paying model in trade (aka clothing items) rather than money is an acceptable, common practice. But there are those vocal critics of the system, including Sara Ziff of the Model Alliance, who disagree, and they believe it's veteran voices in the industry who have to be the ones pressing for change.
"These young girls don't get paid very much, and they don't have the experience or the confidence to demand to be treated any differently by the industry," Le Bon said during her Condé Nast College talk. "It's so different from Christy Turlington or Jerry Hall opening a show with so much experience behind them."
The difference is that Christy or Jerry -- or any of the more established models on the runways today -- would have the courage to speak up if they were being taken advantage of. Many younger models, particularly those without parents around, won't have that same courage. And if that's the case, the "penny-pinching" will likely continue.
The modeling industry isn't all bad: