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Concern over plan to use girl (13) as catwalk model at Belfast Fashion Week

CMPR managing director Cathy Martin unveiled the 13-year-old on her Facebook page 

A DECISION to use a 13-year-old model at Belfast Fashion Week in breach of industry guidelines has been criticised.

The child has recently been signed to CMPR Models and it was announced this week she will take to the catwalk during the high profile event.

The use of young models is increasingly controversial, with all 21 international Vogues signing an agreement not to use models under the age of 16 in 2012.

And since 2007, the British Fashion Council guidelines recommend that designers only use models who were at least 16 for catwalk shows - it is also the lower limit set by the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Last month the controversial use of a 14-year-old at a Dior show was lambasted.

The 13-year-old was unveiled by CMPR managing director Cathy Martin on her Facebook page, along with a series of professionally- shot photographs in which the child posed suggestively in denim hot pants in a children's play park.

Ms Martin said all potential models "are interviewed with parents or guardians - to assess their personality and maturity for the job".

"We found (her) to be a responsible and mature 13-year-old who wants to model, and has chosen to do so with her parents' consent.

"Any work we would give her at this stage would be carried out in extremely controlled conditions with her welfare to the fore.

"Parents of young models are always invited to come backstage or on set."

The girl's mother said she was present throughout the photoshoot and does not "find the images inappropriate whatsoever".

"I think they are beautiful and tasteful, especially when you compare to what some teenagers put on their social media feeds."

However, children's charities have expressed disquiet.

Monica McCann of Barnardo's NI said it "supports... guidelines that models should be at least sixteen".

"We understand modelling can be fun for children and young people but the clothes, poses and make-up should always be age appropriate.

"Childhood is precious and should be protected as such by everyone, including the fashion industry."

Green Party deputy leader Clare Bailey said it was "difficult to rationalise how a 13-year-old child should be allowed to pose in such a provocative, adult manner".

"Social media is swamped with sexualised imagery and I don't think this is something that parents, carers, siblings or society should be comfortable with.

"The problem is not with this young girl; I wish her every success in her modelling career. The problem for me is that it is seemingly acceptable for young children to dress and act like this. Children should be allowed to be children."

SDLP assembly member Claire Hanna said the industry guidelines "are there for a reason".

"Young people, girls in particular, are bombarded with messages that imply that their value and worth is based on their looks, and with images of beauty that are unattainable and in many cases distorted by photoshopping as well," she said.

"I think that 13 is very young for anyone to get involved in modelling, particularly of clothing lines aimed at the adult market, and to be under the pressure and spotlight associated with that industry."

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