Marc's underage muses

Marc Jacobs waded into the model-age fray by hiring two underage models to walk in his autumn-winter 2012 runway show.

Ondria Hardin and Thairine Garcia, both reportedly 14 years old, showcased Jacobs’ designs despite official efforts to keep models their age off the catwalk.

Before New York Fashion Week, the Council of Fashion Designers of America issued a set of model health guidelines. The non-binding recommendations included a call for members to avoid using models under the age of 16 in their shows. Models who have yet to pass their 16th birthday, the CFDA said, were unlikely possess the perspective or experience to cope with the harried backstage environment.

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To ensure compliance, the CFDA encouraged designers to require models to present ID on show day to prove they are 16 or older (and to prevent headaches of the sort experienced by Diane Von Furstenberg, CFDA president, when she learned too late that one of the models in her A/W ’11 show was only 15).

The crucial word, of course, is ‘nonbinding’. Although most NYFW designers have abided by the CFDA recommendations, Jacobs swerved from the crowd.

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‘I do the show the way I think it should be and not the way somebody tells me it should be, he told the New York Times. ‘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.’

Jacobs added that chaperones accompanied his younger models to fittings and show prep.

‘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,’ he said.

Ford Models, which represents both Hardin and Garcia, struck a similar note. The agency issued a statement last week saying that it would, ‘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.’

Adding a further wrinkle to the story is the fact that Jacobs cited aging style icons like Gloria Vanderbilt, Anna Piaggi and Cindy Sherman as one of his collection inspirations. On a runway full of teens, they were nowhere to be seen.

Should designers use underage models? Weigh in in the comments field below...

Read more about the CFDA's model health guidelines

See Jacobs' full collection here

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