Models too old at 16, agency says

22:13, Nov 15 2011
Oceana Strachan
FLEETING LOOK: Oceana Strachan,14, at a school camp.

For most 16-year-old girls, life is only just beginning. But if you want to make it as a fashion model it's already over, a new modelling agency says.

"I know people may think 13 is very young but that's what the international brands are looking for in Europe," said the head booker at Sydney-based GEAR Model Management, Naomi Fitzgerald de Grave. "Models are too old at 16 now."

But New Zealand-based modelling agencies say that is "ridiculous".

"It's absolute bollocks," 62 Models & Talent director Sara Tetro said.

"Good luck finding a reputable agency in Europe that would take you at that age," the New Zealand's Next Top Model host said.

Most international agencies wouldn't take on girls for major campaigns until they were at least 16 or 17, she said.

The three models who have won the title of New Zealand's Next Top Model, Christobelle Grierson-Ryrie, Danielle Hayes and Brigette Thomas were 16, 19 and 21, respectively.

GEAR's comments that international brands were looking for young teenagers were "ridiculous", Red Eleven's director Mandy Jacobsen said.

Most 13- and 14-year-old models were "far too young" to model internationally, she said.

Models would often sign up with Red Eleven at 13 or 14 but they wouldn't secure many modelling jobs until they were about 17 or 18, Jacobsen said.

She didn't know of any international brands that were seeking 13 or 14 year olds, unless it was for a teenage brand specifically looking for teenagers.

Members of the Australian industry also said 13 was too young to appear in international advertising campaigns or on the runway. "International clients do not book 'children' for their campaigns and they should be closed down for trying to push that message," said Chic Management director Kathy Ward.

"We would never send a 13-year-old girl over to New York or Paris to walk in the shows."

Ward, whose agency represents top Australian models, said Chic took on girls aged 13 and 14 but they went through "apprentice-style management until they are old enough and mature enough to take on the demands of international modelling".

The editor of Harper's Bazaar, Edwina McCann, said: "To suggest that 16-year-olds are too old for the modelling world is ridiculous. I know girls are often discovered under the age of 16 but generally we have a policy that they don't appear in the magazine until they are 16."

Oceana Strachan, 14, is due to sign with GEAR on Friday but yesterday she was at a school camp. "A couple of years ago they had a modelling competition in the Wollongong mall, and Oceana entered and she got in the final. But that was as far as it went," said her mother, Tracy Strachan.

"I told Oceana to embrace the power and beauty of her youth [and] start looking for modelling and photography work."

Oceana contacted GEAR. "What I really liked was that they do encourage their young models to continue with their education,"  Strachan said.

The director of GEAR, Dragan Dimovski, said young models received age-appropriate care and opportunities. "Everything goes past the parents for approval," he said.

"We are pretty much targeting the younger 13 to 16 [age group]," he said. "That's what they're doing internationally. The models in Australia are missing out on opportunities internationally."

When the Sydney Morning Herald arrived to take a natural photograph of Oceana at the school camp, Dimovski was there and she was already wearing make-up.

In 2008 Australian Fashion Week introduced a minimum age of 16 for models after a backlash over the scheduled appearance of a 14-year-old Polish girl, Monika Jagaciak. Fashion weeks around the world have barred models under 16.

- GEORGINA SAFE/Sydney Morning Herald with MICHELLE COOKE/Fairfax NZ