A recent Marc Jacobs campaign features 14-year old hair-whipper Willow Smith. Cindy Crawford’s daughter, 12, recently appeared in her first print editorial. Designer Raf Simons sent an improverished 14-year old Israeli girl down a Paris runway as part of a recent Dior runway show. But Acne Studios, determined to outdo them all, has cast an 11 year old boy as the latest face of its women’s line. Bedecked in sunglasses, heels, and oversized coats, young Frasse Johansson will soon appear on billboards promoting the Swedish brand’s fall 2015 women’s collection. Frasse is the son of Jonny Johansson, Acne Studios’ creative director. This is either an awesome achievement or a terrible travesty! Let’s look at the evidence.
On the plus side:
Designer Jonny Johansson sees his son as an example of how we no longer need societal approval to wear whatever clothes we want to wear. That’s nice! “I’ve seen this new generation’s attitude to fashion where the cut, the shape and the character of the garment is the crucial thing, rather then seeking approval from society or to follow set norms,” the elder Johansson told i-D. “I immediately pictured Frasse, since he embodies this new breed to me.” It’s also nice that father and son go to spend some time together, and the kid is presumably psyched that he’s going to be all over billboards in New York and Paris during each city’s Fashion Week.
On the other hand!
It could be argued just as easily that Acne Studios is telling their female customers that they need to be shaped like pubescent boys in order to look good in the brand’s $1,850 powder pink coats. While the brand’s men’s line has been exploring gender via $300 sweatshirts, the women’s collection is a lot more conservative. (Well, except for all the sheer tops.)
While Frasse’s modeling is probably a one-time deal, underaged fashion models are actually no laughing matter. In 2011, models under the age of 16 were banned from runway shows by the CFDA, the American fashion industry’s governing body. That’s because models are often pulled out of school and left to fend for themselves with few rights. Child labor laws are hazy when it comes to the fashion world, and the vast majority of young models are left at a disadvantage when their careers end a few short years later.