France’s fashion industry has managed to become one of the most frowned upon commercial enterprises on the planet in recent months. Outrage relating to the sexualisation of young female models is top of a list of complaints aimed firmly in its direction.
France’s fashion industry has managed to become one of the most frowned upon commercial enterprises on the planet in recent months. Outrage relating to the sexualisation of young female models is top of a list of complaints aimed firmly in its direction. The media, and in turn an abundance of consumers, were first shocked by a Vogue shoot, featuring French child model Thylane Lena-Rose Blondeau, and then, more recently, by images of young girls dressed in items from a French “loungerie” line designed by Sophie Morin for Jours Après Lunes.
Images in Vogue that caused uproar and provoked so much debate showed 10 year old model Thylane – daughter of TV presenter Veronika Loubry and international footballer Patrick Blondeau – posing in full make-up and heels against a backdrop of animal print fabrics. The Jours Après Lunes campaign has followed and at UK modelling agency Models Direct we can’t help wondering how naive designer Morin would have to be in order for it not to cross her mind that the images published would likely spark further controversy? In an interview with The Lingerie Journal, however, Morin stated that she was “very surprised” by the reaction to her designs, which are apparently intended to provide a ‘compromise’ between lingerie and lounge wear for children aged 4 to 12 years old. She told them: “There was no negative reaction so far in France.”
Consumers in America and the UK do seem Particularly upset by these advertising campaigns and while it may be worth noting that Morin’s collection is not distributed in either the UK or the US, could cultural differences really be at the root of such conflicting interpretations – concerning what are appropriate profit-making products and what are not? This, after all, is not the first time that dubious items of clothing have been designed and targeted to young girls. Take for instance American retailer Abercrombie and Fitch’s ‘push-up’ bikini, first aimed at 7 year olds before it was remarketed – oh so much more appropriately – to 12 year olds. Or Primark in the UK, who have also been forced to withdraw padded bikinis targeted at young girls. We may have to face facts, that Western society in general is gradually allowing the sexualisation of children to creep into everyday life.
Morin’s superfluous underwear collection, apparently intended for everyday use, is being viewed by many as an unhealthy and unnecessary extension of a traditional girl’s ‘dressing up box’, and though she seems to suggest in her interview with The Lingerie Journalists that the triangle items included in her range are not intended to be bras, the word ‘brassiere’ is clearly printed alongside a picture of such a piece in the collection on the Jours Après Lunes website. Also, they do appear to strongly resemble, well, bras! All this considered, it’s not so much the items themselves as the stylising of the girls in these advertisements that has really caused concern. Unfortunately though, the reaction to the models’ bouffant hair-dos and made-up faces ensured more publicity of the brand, and traffic to the website, than they’ve probably seen in years. A cynic would call it marketing genius.
Is the fashion industry really creating a market where there simply isn’t demand? Or is the worrying truth that a market is indeed being created by parents who allow children their real-life dressing up boxes and turn a blind eye to the result of such feeble-mindedness until campaigns like Jours Après Lunes hit the headlines? Girls love to dress up and are naturally curious about make-up, heels and, yes, even lingerie! Children imitate adults, it’s a story as old as time, but as parents we do not have to respond to this curiosity by buying into the idea that adult clothing is appropriate for our pre-pubescent children, or that bras for ‘tweens’ or young teens should be anything but functional and comfortable – no padding or pearl encrusting required!
If your 12 year old, or younger, daughter actually needs the support offered by a bra then by all means buy her an appropriate item. But, with so many more years ahead of us as adults than there have ever been before, doesn’t it seem crazy that we appear as a society determined to shorten childhoods by investing in these items years before they should have any place in a child’s wardrobe or, what should be, this innocent stage of life?
Simply put, many young girls are wearing bras way before their bodies call for it these days. That’s a fact. And they didn’t buy them themselves. Models Direct believes that the blame for this situation cannot be placed solely on designers, advertisers or the even the fashion and modelling industries. It’s time for us all as to take responsibility. Refuse to buy these products for your children. If there proves to be no market for lingerie aimed at young girls then you can be sure you will soon stop seeing advertising campaigns that feature it. It is up to us as consumers to dictate what is appropriate and what is not, to avoid hypocrisy and to ensure that child modelling is approached responsibly or that the results are shunned.
There is no doubt that advertising campaigns featuring child models have a profound impact on audiences and are able to raise awareness or sell products and ideas in a way, it appears, that adults cannot. As a society let’s keep that a positive thing without damaging our children in the process.