French luxury group Kering will no longer use models who are under the age of 18.
The fashion company owns several major fashion houses, including Gucci, Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen.
The policy will come into effect in time for the 2020-2021 Autumn/Winter collections, the company said.
Kering CEO François Henri-Pinault said in a statement that the company was “conscious of the influence exerted on younger generations” by its images.
He said: “We believe that we have a responsibility to put forward the best possible practices in the luxury sector, and we hope to create a movement that will encourage others to follow suit.”
Kering’s chief sustainability officer, Marie-Claire Daveu, added: “The physiological and psychological maturity of models aged over 18 seems more appropriate to the rhythm and demands that are involved in this profession.”
The company’s decision comes as fashion brands are increasingly trying to become more ethical, both in their designs and in their working practices.
In August 2018, Condé Nast, which publishes Vogue magazine, announced that it would not use models under the age of 18 in editorial shoots, unless they were the subject of an article.
An editorial in Vogue said at the time: “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.”
It continued: “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.”
Last year, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) made a similar declaration. Its CEO Steven Kolb said: “Young models are still developing. There can be a lack of the confidence, strength, experience, and maturity it takes to deal with the pressures of this work.”
In 2017, both Kering and a rival fashion group LVMH signed a charter agreeing to – among other things – stop hiring models who were under the age of 16.
A number of fashion designers have also pledged not to hire ultra-thin models and not to use exotic animal skins and fur in their designs.
It has long been common across the fashion industry to cast models who were under 18 – and indeed, many supermodels got their start in the industry at a young age.
Model Naomi Campbell, now 48, was just 16 when she launched her career. Kate Moss, now 45, was discovered at the age of 14. Brooke Shields was just 14 when she appeared on the front cover of Vogue in February 1980.
Currently, 17-year-old Kaia Gerber is a rising star, while the late Karl Lagerfeld’s godson Hudson Kroenig, 11, was regularly seen on the catwalk.
However, a spotlight was shone on the treatment of young models in October 2017, when 14-year-old Russian model Vlada Dzyuba collapsed backstage at Shanghai Fashion Week and later died in hospital.
Vogue, in making its decision, also cited a number of allegations of harassment in the fashion industry, which were publicized as part of the #MeToo movement.
The publication added that in the mid-1980s, when Naomi Campbell launched her career, there were so few fashion shows a year that “a model could stay in school if she wished” – but nowadays the work is much more demanding.