A furore has forced organisers of Australian Fashion Week to revoke a decision to feature a 14-year-old Polish model in the event.
Organisers had planned to fly 14-year-old Polish girl Monika Jagaciak to Australia for the fashion week, which starts later this month. It has since released a statement announcing all models must be at least 16.
"In light of industry and community concern regarding the acceptable age for models to appear on the catwalk at Rosemount Australian Fashion Week , RAFW today revised its industry policy," the statement said.
"Effective immediately both male and female models participating in RAFW will need to be at least 16 years of age and must be represented by a model agency."
Concern over Jagaciak's age had been an over-reaction, said Mink Sadowsky, a former model and talent development manager with Chadwick Models. While the Australian industry typically did not use models aged under 16, having supervision of a guardian was more important than a girl's age, Ms Sadowsky said.
"If a 14-year-old wants to get on a runway and put on a beautiful dress, why shouldn't she? As long as she's chaperoned by a guardian or manager.
"It's making a bit of a mountain out of a molehill - I don't think it needs to be made a front-page story, there are other important things going on in the world.
"At the end of the day, I think if the family is behind the talent and the girl has some sense of social intelligence and maturity, perhaps she should be able to model."
Monika Jagaciak has previously fronted a campaign for French fashion house Hermes and been photographed in a white swimsuit being sprayed by a shower jet. Her inclusion in AFW has re-ignited the contentious issue of underage modelling.
London Fashion Week has banned under-16-year-olds from its catwalks and, in France, a licence is required before an under-16-year-old can model. No such licence is required in Australia, but there was a public outcry when 12-year-old Maddison Gabriel won a Gold Coast fashion competition last year.
AFW founder Simon Lock was initially unrepentant about bringing Jagaciak to Australia.
"The designers love these models as coat hangers for their clothes," Mr Lock told News Limited.
"They don't want to exploit their sexuality in any way whatsoever." He said Jagaciak would chaperoned by an agent and had her parents' approval. But Ms Sadowsky predicted AFW might need to reconsider its decision. "If there's an overwhelming feeling that it makes people uncomfortable, then majority rules ... it shouldn't detract from what's a positive event."
The Australian fashion industry was conscious of concerns surrounding underage modelling, and agencies worked hard to protect their own reputations and that of the industry, Ms Sadowsky said.
"I don't think girls are ever put into compromising positions," she said.
Source : Fairfax New Zealand Limited