It’s hard to find moral common ground in the fashion industry, but if there’s one issue that everyone should agree on it’s the sexual objectification of children in order to sell clothing.
Seriously, can’t we all agree to stop tarting up and exploiting pre-teen models to gain some kind of market advantage?
You would think this was a no-brainer, but the truth is that an endless number of brands, retailers, editors and marketers continually try to push the needle with ever-younger models in ever-more-inappropriate poses in a deliberate attempt to stir controversy and attract attention.
Complaints from parents’ group have forced many companies to withdraw products and advertising, and some countries (like Britain) have laws that govern the depiction of children in overtly sexual ways. Still, the dust barely settles on one kiddie-porn controversy before another one rises to take its place in the headlines.
Earlier this year, French Vogue treated us to a Tom Ford-edited photo spread featuring a dolled-up supermodel who was all of 10 years old — not that there was anything innocent about those come-hither poses and outfits. The declaimers howled in predictable protest; Condé Nast filled its pockets.
Now, there’s a new French lingerie brand, Jours Après Lunes, that goes after the enfant chic market with a questionable line of designer undies for kids.
Jours Après Lunes is the brainchild of Paris designer Sophie Morin, who worked in the industry for 15 years before launching what she calls the first loungerie collection for children. Morin describes her line as an “audacious and romantic way of looking at lingerie in children’s fashion.”
The collection of lingerie and loungewear pieces are offered in three age groups from baby to early teen. But it’s not the products that are the problem — even rich toddlers need underwear, although I don’t know many 7-year-olds who own loungewear — it’s the marketing behind it.
JAL uses campaign imagery for the youth and teen collection that features coiffed and made-up young models in flirty, revealing poses that make them look like Lara Stone wannabes. Even the baby line, which is mostly a bunch of colorful onesies, uses this charming image:
What bothers us most about all this isn’t just the use of hypersexualized child models, but how cynically and intentionally provocative it all is. This is a French label, selling to a European market, and we all know Europeans have more liberal attitudes toward sexuality. Jours Après Lunes exploits that laissez faire tolerance and, like French Vogue, even challenges its proudly open-minded target market to accept this latest attempt to push the boundaries of what is consider acceptable.
Some people will consider this bold, daring, even artistic. But it’s not; it’s just exploitation. You don’t have to be a prude to find this appalling, you just have to care about kids.
Below are some more images from the Jours Après Lunes debut set; we debated whether to publish them, but eventually decided that readers should see what this is all about and make up their own minds. You can also do a Google search for “French Vogue child photos” and you’ll find plenty of other viewpoints on the subject.