Sofia Mechetner is sultry, sophisticated and wore a barely-there sheer white gown as she led a parade of models at Christian Dior’s Paris fashion show earlier this month.
And, she’s just 14 years old.
The Israeli native is the new star of the luxury fashion brand’s fall collection, but her tender age has reignited the fiery debate over how young is too young to be scantily clad on the runway.
“Fashion nudity is about art and not about sexuality,” Sofia told The Jerusalem Post.
Her agent, Roberto Ben-Shoshan, also defended the young model’s runway walk in the sheer gown, saying she wasn’t shown in a sexual or demeaning way.
“[It was in] a very clean, fashionable way, I didn’t see anything sexy,” he said.
Ben-Shoshan plucked Sofia from obscurity when she walked into his office one day.
“Sofia for me was like the diamond,” he said. “She’s not only beautiful, she’s also unique. She’s got the unique look, the edgy look and also the beautiful look.”
After seeing her, Ben-Shoshan sent her to Paris where she was spotted in a Christian Dior store by the brand’s creative director Raf Simons.
“Young is fresh, and when I saw her, I knew only the top designers are going to take her,” Ben-Shoshan said.
Before she was discovered, Sofia and her family struggled to make ends meet. She used to help her mother clean homes to support her and her younger siblings, all the while sharing a one bedroom apartment. Now, she has reportedly signed a contract for $200,000.
“Dior will treat her like a queen, they pay for everything,” Ben-Shoshan said.
Being young has always been a fashion cache. Just a few years ago, French Vogue sparked international outrage when they showcased a 10-year-old girl with a bright red pout, posing suggestively, in one of their photo spreads.
But lately in the United States there has been a call for change. The Council of Fashion Designers issued guidelines saying a model must be at least 16 years old to work. But despite these reforms, there are still ways around them.
Cindy Crawford’s daughter Kaia Gerber, only 13, was given her own spread in Italian Vogue. Johnny Depp’s daughter Lily Rose Depp is the new face of Chanel eye wear at age 16.
The world of high fashion isn’t all glitz and glamour. It can be damaging. Supermodel Kate Moss started modeling at age 14, but told Vanity Fair in 2012 that she “had a nervous breakdown” when she was just 17.
“There’s massive pressure to do what you have to do… I was really little,” Moss told the magazine. “I see a 16-year-old now and to ask her to take her clothes off would feel really weird. But they were like, ‘if you don’t do it, then we’re not going to book you again.’ So I’d lock myself I the toilet and cry and then come out and do it.”
Victoria Secret model Karlie Kloss posed nude for Allure magazine at just 15, admitting to New York magazine that it was difficult starting out so young.
“I wish I would have been a little older, a little bit more mature because there’s a lot, in this career, there’s a lot you have to handle, and it’s somewhat difficult when you’re thrown into it– and you don’t really know what to do,” she told New York.
Robi Ludwig, a psychotherapist based in New York City, said young models can have a skewed perception of what’s expected of them.
“It’s a double message when you think about it,” Lugwig said. “The problem is when these young teens gets seduced and start believing that they are older than they really are and they’re not living the life that they should really live. And eventually that creates mental issues.”