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Is Fashion in the Midst of a Teen Model Backlash?

The women who paved the way for the "Instagirls" are back in the spotlight in a big way this season.
Christy Turlington for 'WSJ' magazine, March 2016. Photo: Mikael Jansson

Christy Turlington for 'WSJ' magazine, March 2016. Photo: Mikael Jansson

We spend a lot of time talking about teens on this website, whether they're of the celebrity offspring variety, the reality star-turned-fashion model type or the up-and-coming faces that designers like Alessandro Michele, Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada often look to as seasonal muses. 

While it's no secret that fashion as an industry has long fetishized youth, some of the models getting the most attention recently are years away from adulthood — take Simons's final ad campaign for Dior for example, which features Sofia Mechetner, an Israeli model who's 15 years old, and Roos Abels, a Dutch beauty (and former Prada exclusive) who's 16. This trend has certainly been exacerbated by the fact that youngsters are known to be more adept at social media — arguably the modeling industry's most valuable currency these days — leading the Hadids and the Jenners (as well as Instagram sensations like Lucky Blue Smith and Hailey Baldwin) to come out on top when it comes to landing blue chip ad campaigns and show castings.

But when the pendulum swings so far in one direction, it's bound to come roaring back, and a change has certainly emerged in the industry's casting choices over the past few months. Audiences were pleasantly surprised when Paris's King of the Youths, Olivier Rousteing of Balmain, eschewed the "Instagirls" in favor of the original '90s supermodels — Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford — for his spring 2016 ad campaign. Other fashion houses followed suit, including Armani (see below) and Sophie Theallet, who chose 50-year-old Veronica Webb as the face of the label for spring.

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Eva Herzigova, Stella Tennant, Amber Le Bon and Nadja Auermann. Photo: Peter Lindbergh

Eva Herzigova, Stella Tennant, Amber Le Bon and Nadja Auermann. Photo: Peter Lindbergh

Magazine editors are getting in on the action as well, with both Christy Turlington and Amber Valletta landing major spring 2016 covers, WSJ. magazine and Porter, respectively. Following on the heels of 2015's big pop cultural casting coups like Joan Didion for Céline and Joni Mitchell for Saint Laurent, this season's preference for more mature models also extends to accomplished actresses, like Sophia Loren for Dolce & Gabbana and Bette Midler for Marc Jacobs.

Sure, there's a reason these women are called "supermodels," and it's easily argued that they never really "went" anywhere, but in a landscape that's dominated by such young, social media-obsessed personalities, it's refreshing to see the women who paved the way for them take the spotlight once again. But will this new attitude come through in the fall 2016 runway castings beyond a select few designers, like Prabal Gurung, who prefer to showcase their clothing on sophisticated, self-assured women in their 30s, 40s and 50s? Here's hoping.