The US has all but banned underage models. Should Australia follow?

If you've been holding out for the US Vogue cover featuring Kaia Gerber, the daughter of Cindy Crawford and the face of several brands including Omega watches, you'll have to wait.

On Friday, the magazine's parent company, Conde Nast, and the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) said they would no longer use underage models.

The exception is when there is an article about the model where, in the words of Vogue's Maya Singer, the model "will be both chaperoned and styled in an age-appropriate manner".

"This is partly the result of an internal reckoning. Vogue, along with a number of other publications, has played a role in making it routine for children – since that’s what they are – to be dressed and marketed as glamorous adults," Singer wrote in the magazine.

"When Brooke Shields, then fourteen, graced the February 1980 cover of Vogue, she was an outlier. Since then, models in their mid-teens have appeared in many of our fashion editorials. No more: It’s not right for us, it’s not right for our readers, and it’s not right for the young models competing to appear in these pages. While we can’t rewrite the past, we can commit to a better future."

So that means no Kaia (she turns 18 in September 2019), even though she recently appeared on the cover of Vogue Italia, and had her firstVogue cover in France in January (she earlier appeared on the front of the same title with Crawford).

In the wake of the US-based ban, it isn't hard to see why the Vogue Paris cover is problematic, especially in the post #MeToo paradigm. Kaia is wearing head-to-toe Saint Laurent, including thigh-high fringed boots and hot pants, a look that in many reasonable people's view would flout the "age-appropriate" maxim of Conde's new standard.

What it will mean for next month's New York Fashion Week is uncertain but it's likely brands will think twice before casting children for their shows.

In Australia, the situation is in a state of flux. While few, if any, models under 18 have "covered" the local editions of the glossies, it's a different story at fashion weeks.

In May, 16-year-old Sandali Jayasinghe walked in several high-profile shows at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, while Australian international model Adut Akech modeled for Saint Laurent (incidentally in an almost identical outfit to that worn by Kaia on theVogue Italia cover) before her 18th birthday.

A spokeswoman for next month's Melbourne Fashion Week (MFW) said all models must be 16 or above to walk, while at the Melbourne Fashion Festival models must be over 16 and "managed by a reputable agent", according to a spokesman.

"We've seen the age average mature and advance in the past two years," the VAMFF spokesman said.

Vogue Australia editor-in-chief Edwina McCann said the magazine had not employed underage models for some time.

"We do occasionally photograph children to be featured with their parents, as we did when we put Teresa Palmer on our May 2017 cover with her kids," she said.

"We also recently featured Millie Bobby Brown in her capacity as an actress but with clothing and image approval provided by her mother. We sometimes photograph individuals under the age of 18 if it is for the purpose of illustrating the story, as we did with Audrey Mason-Hyde in our September [2018] issue."

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