Top model agency defies industry guidelines banning models under 16 from the catwalk by promoting girls aged just 14

Top model agency defies industry guidelines banning models under 16 from the catwalk by promoting girls aged just 14

Top modelling agency, Ford Models, has flouted its own pledge to keep models younger than 16 from undertaking catwalk shows.

According to the New York Times, the modelling megalith is touting its latest hottest property, 14-year-old Ondria Hardin, for work on New York's Lincoln Centre runways.

Ms Hardin features in the agency's show portfolio, a compilation of models that is proffered to casting agents for jobs at the world famous fashion showcase, says the newspaper.

So pretty, so young: Ondria Hardin, left, starred in Prada's fall-winter 2011 campaign. The 14-year-old is being touted for runway work despite her agency pledging not to send girls under 16 to work on runways

So pretty, so young: Ondria Hardin, left, starred in Prada's fall-winter 2011 campaign. The 14-year-old is being touted for runway work despite her agency pledging not to send girls under 16 to work on runways

In an open letter published just two
weeks ago by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the top modelling agency agreed that it would not select girls who are
under 16 to go to runway auditions.

'The
guidelines recommend that models be asked for i.d. to ensure that they
are at least 16 years old on the day of a show and that you avoid having
models under the age of eighteen to work past midnight at fittings',
wrote Diane von Furstenberg and Steven Kolb, the Council's president and
chief executive, respectively.

'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 have reneged, the underage beauty 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.

Flouted pledge: Miss Hardin, right, was deemed mature enough by Ford to take on the runway scene - though she only turns 15 this summer

Flouted pledge: Miss Hardin, right, was deemed mature enough by Ford to take on the runway scene – though she only turns 15 this summer

'We take the age and maturity of our 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.

'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.'

'A select few demonstrate the know-how and maturity that are necessary to work earlier than they otherwise would'

Last season, reports Jezebel, both Ford and Women agencies sent 14- and 15-year-old down runways.

The youngsters, who the CFDA worries may not be respected by photographers – especially when undressed backstage – or have the maturity to deal with being rejected, according to the Times, appeared in shows for major players including DKNY, Marc Jacobs, Tory Burch and BCBG.

Ford's disregard for its promise is a damning about-turn for industry leaders – and corrodes a message of pastoral and health care in the fashion community that was seen as gradually gaining momentum.

New York Fashion Week kicked off yesterday and will run until February 16.