The Age of Innocence

Originally published in qmunicate

No one can deny that the fashion industry has long been problematic. Take fashion photography: its preoccupation with skinny models and a perfect, blemish-free body feeds into an exclusionary, often damaging aesthetic ideal that is often hard to reconcile with the exquisite couture and the beautiful, glossy pictures on the pages of magazines.  Fashion photography’s latest obsession with young girls is equally, if not more, dubious.

lily rose depp
Image credit: Vogue

The latest trend is exemplified by Lily-Rose Depp, the sixteen year old daughter of actor Johnny Depp, recently the face of Chanel, an honour usually reserved for big names like Cara Delevingne and Keira Knightley. Articles in publications like Vogue have excitedly commented upon her rising star and her new status as Chanel’s muse – but is it really appropriate for such a young girl to be a source of inspiration? Surely, when she hasn’t even reached adulthood yet, she shouldn’t be seen as a model of female beauty: not only does it perpetuate an unattainable, youthful ideal that doesn’t reflect the women who are actually buying these clothes, it puts young girl’s bodies into the spotlight where they simply don’t belong, with unavoidably sexual undertones. It also links into the centuries-old idea that women are more attractive when they are pure and innocent, reinforced by Karl Lagerfeld’s description of Lily-Rose as ‘ravishing’ and the Chanel campaign which calls her a ‘baby doll in a world imbued with sweetness and femininity’.

Of course, child stars are nothing new, even in fashion: an advert for a Marc Jacobs perfume was banned in 2013 for sexualising seventeen year old Dakota Fanning and Hailee Steinfeld was picked to star in a Miu Miu campaign when she was only fourteen. It seems highly inappropriate for young girls to model clothes specifically designed for women and considering the high sexualisation and objectification of advertising in general, it seems optimistic to hope that these girls have escaped these problems – especially considering that many of these photographers and designers are, in fact, middle-aged men. Johnny Depp himself labelled the industry’s obsession with Lily-Rose ‘really disturbing’ and it’s really not hard to understand why.

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