Has Prada gone off the rails with its latest Miu Miu campaign?
As a conscientious fashion observer, I have witnessed many of the biggest couture houses displaying their wares across a string of childlike models and wondered how these waif-like teenagers could possibly be a true representation of these bastions of the fashion industry.
Apparently forgetting that their target market and biggest spenders are often years, even decades, older than the mere babes portrayed as brand ambassadors in their campaigns, some labels may be alienating the very people that they wish to engage with.
However, that’s what the big, bad Advertising Standards Agency is here to remind them of and it seems that the age-old quest for youth has finally caught up with some fashion labels. The latest casualty to the ASA sword is Miu Miu, owned by fashion giant Prada. Their most recent campaign raised eyebrows for the choice of star alone, 14-year-old child actress Hailee Steinfeld, with one advert deemed to be "irresponsible" for "showing a child in a hazardous or dangerous situation" with Steinfeld seen sitting on a railway track.
Prada tried to defend itself, claiming that the advert was "based on the set of an imaginary film" starring Steinfeld — who was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar in 2011 for her role in True Grit — and did not have the "intent of depicting a child in an unsafe location". They also said that "the viewpoint of the ad extended along the railway track and it was clear that there was no train in sight," thereby negating any suggestion of peril.
In a further attempt to save face, the brand added that the ad was "part of a serious, high-fashion campaign aimed at adult women” and "was placed only in adult, high-fashion magazines". In which case, why had they not simply chosen an adult to be the face of their campaign? Were there no Oscar-nominated actresses over the age of 18 available when the Prada pack came a-knocking?
Miu Miu is an edgy, fashion forward brand so yes, it does make sense to select an appropriately of-the-moment muse. But for an adult brand, designing and creating beautiful clothing for adult women, targeting these women in adult, high-fashion magazines, why choose a child to model them?
The Prada/Miu Miu campaign was not the only one to be attacked by the ASA, which recently targeted American designer Marc Jacobs whose perfume advert featuring Dakota Fanning was labelled “irresponsible and likely to cause offence” The campaign for Oh Lola! depicted Fanning sitting with an oversized perfume bottle between her thighs; they deem it inappropriate due to the "sexually provocative" position of the bottle. They also reasoned that Fanning, although 17, looked under the age of 16 therefore causing the ad to be banned as it "could be seen to sexualise a child".
Did these two great fashion houses truly consider the implications of casting children to front their campaigns or were these child stars exploited for the publicity that only comes with this kind of controversy? Perhaps for their next campaigns, Prada and Marc Jacobs will contemplate choosing a muse whose age actually reflects their customer base or, failing that, one who no longer requires a training bra.