Image: YSL

“As a global luxury group, we are conscious of the influence exerted on younger generations in particular by the images produced by our Houses,” chairman and CEO François-Henri Pinault said on Wednesday. “We believe that we have a responsibility to put forward the best possible practices in the luxury sector and we hope to create a movement that will encourage others to follow suit.” Part of that movement? Only hiring models over age 18 for its brands’ runway shows and photo shoots.

The announcement from Mr. Pinault follows from his speech at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit on Wednesday, and serves to piggyback on a charter initiated by the conglomerate and its closest rival LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton in September 2017. In furtherance of “the charter on working relations and well-being of models,” both groups vowed that “models below the age of 16 [would] not be hired by brands to take part in shows or shootings representing an adult.” As for models between 16 to 18 year-old, they would become “subject to specific rules,” including limited working hours, and the mandatory presence of a chaperon/guardian, among other things.

Still yet, the ongoing charter also requires that all of the two luxury giants’ fashion brands – from LVMH’s Louis Vuitton, Celine, and Dior, etc. to Kering’s Gucci, Saint Laurent, and Balenciaga, among others – commit to banning models below size 34 for women and size 44 for men in French measurements from their castings, something that was also addressed in a 2017 French law.

A rep for Kering said in a statement that the charter “has already led to progress in the Luxury sector, notably by introducing a minimum age of 16 for models,” and that Kering’s latest effort aims to goes further by raising the minimum age of models again, this time to “over 18,” effective as of next year.

“In our view, the physiological and psychological maturity of models aged over 18 seems more appropriate to the rhythm and demands that are involved in this profession. We are also aware of the role-model element that images produced by our Houses can represent for certain groups of people,” declared Marie-Claire Daveu, Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of International Institutional Affairs at Kering.

Meanwhile in the U.S., Condé Nast issued a global code of conduct for its publications and vendors in August 2018, “stipulating that models under the age of 18 would no longer be photographed for editorials.”

Considering that it was not all that long ago – i.e., it was just earlier this year – that “Prada, Givenchy, and Louis Vuitton sought out Sofia Steinberg, the 16-year-old Russian [model], while Stella McCartney, Valentino, and Loewe called upon 16-year-old British rookie Emily Driver,” per Vogue, while 17-year olds Mona Tougaard and Mariana Barcelos “landed nearly all of [Paris Fashion Week’s] key shows,” the industry still has work to do if it wants to up the age ante for models.

“What’s really needed are industry-wide standards that are actually enforceable, because even in the United States, where we’ve seen more progress, there still aren’t [legal] standards,” Sara Ziff, founder and executive director of the Model Alliance, a New York-based research and policy organization that advocates for labor rights for models and other workers in the fashion industry, told the publication this spring.

Since the likelihood of a multi-jurisdictional legal standard is a long shot (even intellectual property protections are not international in nature), action by the industry’s largest players, such as Kering, is likely the next best thing.

UPDATE (May 17, 2019): LVMH has responded to Kerning’s push to only employ models over age 18. According to WWD, Antoine Arnault, who serves as CEO of CEO of Berluti, chairman of Loro Piana, and head of communications and image at LVMH, said on Friday, “We will not be following suit,” thereby, “Signaling the first rift between the luxury rivals since they signed a joint charter in 2017 setting out industry standards to protect models,” according to the trade publication.