16 'too old' to model: agency

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, according to a new modelling agency.

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

But members of the Australian industry 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,'' Chic Management director Kathy Ward said.

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

Ms 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. Her mother, Tracy, said: ''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.

''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,'' Ms Strachan said.

A GEAR director, Dragan Dimovski, said young models received age-appropriate care and opportunities. ''Everything goes past the parents for approval.

''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 our photographer arrived to get a natural-looking picture of Oceana at the school camp, Mr Dimovski was there and she was already wearing make-up.

In 2008, Australian Fashion Week introduced a minimum age of 16 for models. Fashion weeks around the world have barred models under 16. In Australia, there is no law regulating the minimum age of models.

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