Marc Jacobs breaks industry guidelines by sending underage 14-year-old models down the catwalk
Lonely at the top: Marc Jacobs may be a fashion king but he is not beyond criticism
Marc Jacobs may be one of the high kings of New York Fashion Week but he is not beyond reproach.
The designer is on the receiving end of an avalanche of criticism after sending two underage models down the runway on Monday.
Thairine Garcia and Ondria Hardin, both just 14, strode in the spotlight, wearing the label's Jamiroquai-inspired hats.
The New York Times reports that, of more than 50 models, at least two of the slender beauties were under the age of 16 – the lower limit set by the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
While designers are often unaware of – though not without blame for – their employees being underage, some believe they are above the Council's rigorous, though not compulsory, age guidance.
Mr Jacobs, 48, told the Times: 'I do the show the way I think it should be and not the way somebody tells me it should be.
'If their parents are willing to let them do a show, I don't see any reason that it should be me who tells them that they can't.'
He went on: 'There are children actors and children models for catalogs and stuff, so I guess if a parent thinks it’s O.K. and a kid wants to do it, it’s fine.'
The worrying admission – and blunt refusal to conform – comes just days after it was revealed that Ford Models, a powerhouse agency on the international modelling circuit, had also chosen to defy the guidelines, touting the wares of 14-year-old Ondria Hardin.
Mr Kolb told the Times that while he
hopes designers do defer to the guidelines, the Council can do no more
than make a request of the fashion mandarins.
Underage: Ondria Hardin took to the runway for Marc Jacobs at just 14-years-old – though CFDA guidelines recommend only using models older than 16
In an email yesterday, he said: 'The guidelines are suggested recommendations. They are not mandatory requirements. Each season we hope designers will follow them but it is really up to the designers to decide.'
Supermodel Erin O'Connor has waded into the debate, saying that a minimum age of 16 is a welcome response to 'mounting pressure on both sides,
not only for young models at a crucial stage in their mental and
physical development, but also for some members of the wider
community who look to fashion to influence their own body
She said that as part of her work at the Model Sanctuary, she believes 'it is imperative that we continue to secure
the welfare of our younger participants and we should always aim to
do that in an empowered and creative way.'
Meanwhile, Ford said it 'take[s] the age and maturity of [its] models very seriously.'
'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', Ford said in a statement.
'There are children actors and children
models for catalogs so if a parent thinks it’s O.K.
and a kid wants to do it, it’s fine'
'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.'
Had the agency adhered to its pledge, the youngster would not have been put forward for the work in the first instance.
A CFDA open letter, penned by Diane von Furstenberg and Steven Kolb, the Council's president and chief executive, respectively, said: 'Top modeling agencies – including DNA, Elite, Ford, IMG, Marilyn, New York Models, Next, One, Supreme, Trump, Wilhelmina, Women and Women Direct – have again pledged that they will not send out models under the age of 16 for shows.'
But the agency reneged, the underage Miss Hardin deemed mature enough to handle the enormous public pressure of runway walking and its notoriously dark sides – although she is not yet legal to drive a car or buy a lottery ticket.