Aspiration vs reality - it's all about balance
British censors have banned Miu Miu's latest advert featuring the 14-year-old actress Hailee Steinfeld. But it's not for the usual reason - she is wearing a conservative 1940s-style skirt suit with a coral peplum and black heels. The issue was about location. Steinfeld appears tired or upset, rubbing her eyes while glumly sitting on a railway track.
The Advertising Standards Authority in Britain is concerned with the image 'showing a child in a hazardous or dangerous setting'. Some think her pose, shot by photographer Bruce Weber, suggests she is depressed, upset or crying.
Others are outraged at what they see as an insinuation of teenage suicide, although the ASA has rejected this claim. The brand, however, insists the shot is atmospheric and Steinfeld is simply tired between takes on a film set. Prada, the parent company of Miu Miu, issued a statement defending the image 'as part of a serious high fashion campaign aimed at women.'
The image doesn't look 'dangerous' on first impressions, no more so than many others. But what I find perturbing is the fact that this 14-year-old girl is being used to sell outfits costing upwards of HK$10,000 to grown women. Are we so pathetic that we look to the Twilight generation for image aspirations?
Britain is stricter than most countries when it comes to misleading, tasteless or dangerous adverts. Anyone walking through an MTR station will see that Hong Kong is at the other end of the spectrum. Posters of 'radical weight loss' causing euphoria are everywhere.
While the Brits famously banned several make-up ads (including Julia Roberts' L'Oreal campaign) after a female member of parliament deemed them unrealistic; the American Medical Association has had no such luck.
With more people going under the knife, and body image an issue that affects us at a younger age, how does the industry find a balance between aspiration and realistic representation? We aspire to youthfulness once we've stopped being youthful (although I'd rather leave my 14-year-old self in the past).
Fashion is aspirational; that's its allure. Would we be a better society if we worshipped Rubenesque figures rather than waifs? And will there ever a right balance?