Friday, February 20, 2009

At 14 this Polish teenager was banned from RAFW. Then she opened Calvin Klein

calvin klein FW0910/wwd

A shoutout to Monika Jagaciak. On Sunday we mentioned that although banned in Sydney last year, Jagaciak, now 15, had made a “breakthrough” in New York. Given that New York Fashion Week's Fall/Winter 09/10 season was only a couple of days old - and in spite of hyperbole - it was an ambitious statement. Well, after scoring some of the week’s biggest shows, including Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan and Proenza Schouler, Jagaciak has just pulled off the ultimate model coup: opening and closing Calvin Klein. To be sure, there are many big shows in New York, however none as highly coveted from a modelling perspective as Calvin Klein. This journalist feels we owe Jagaciak a special thumbsup, given that we shoulder much responsibility for the fracas in which she became engulfed in the leadup to Rosemount Australian Fashion Week last year.

Click here
to see the complete Calvin Klein collection on

To recap, in early 2008 IMG announced plans to fly out a contingent of its ‘Development’ board models to tread the runways at Australian Fashion Week, which is operated by IMG.

The idea served two purposes: to give IMG’s fledglings some off-main circuit runway experience and also, rev up the quality of AFW’s much-maligned group shows.

The Development girls had been promised minimum work in the group shows – with anything else up for grabs once they attended castings.

Jagaciak was promoted to local media above the other girls, as the VIP “face” of the event.

A promotional photograph of Jagaciak, lying on her back in a Vichy spa, wearing a wet, white swimsuit, was provided to The Sunday Telegraph, which published it on April 6, not thinking to ask her age.

Here is the image:

l'officiel singapore via TFS

But the names and most of the ages of the IMG Development girls had been documented in this April 5 blog post (on a blog called Fully Chic, which I was writing at the time for, News Limited's Australian online news portal).

After an April 7 phone call to Jagaciak's Polish mother agency, it emerged that Jagaciak had only recently turned 15 - and had been 13 at the time the shot was taken. Taken by Singaporean photographic duo Chuando & Frey, the image had been published in the February 2008 edition of L’Officiel Singapore.

A subsequent April 8 blog post entitled, “This Polish teenager was 13 when this photo was taken, do you have a problem with it?”, promoted on page one of, sparked considerable reader debate.

On April 9, Vogue Australia cancelled a planned cover shoot with Jagaciak, claiming Jagaciak was too young (in spite of the fact that Vogue had previously featured a 15 year-old New Zealander on the cover).

On April 11 The Daily Telegraph (same publisher as The Sunday Telegraph) jumped onto the story, asking “Should Monika Jagaciak be at Australian Fashion Week?” - soliciting comment from, among others, the Australian Family Association.

Later that day IMG FASHION Asia Pacific made the decision to ban all under-16s from the event.

Several weeks later News Limited dispatched a news crew to Poland.

According to IMG FASHION Asia Pacific managing director Simon Lock, the crew staked out Jagaciak's home and school, upsetting her. The incident prompted heated debate between the various IMG offices (the latter witnessed by independent sources).

The Daily Telegraph published paparazzi-style long-distance shots of Jagaciak en route to school with a classmate in this May 1 2008 story.

The story included quotes from Jagaciak's mother and local model agent and does make make reference to a gag order from IMG.

According to Lock, The Telegraph crew was dispatched to Poland after initial interview requests with the Jagaciak family were denied by IMG.

I was unable to blog about this at the time due to the fact that I was working for News Ltd.

I found out about it at AFW, when Lock bailed me up one day to say (words to the effect), “Do you know how much trouble you caused that young girl?”.

For the record - and one more time - I would just like to state that I do not personally have an issue with underage models.

But that is on the very strict proviso that underage models are fully chaperoned by responsible adults. And that the work they do is age-appropriate.

By age-appropriate, I mean that underage models should not be permitted to pose for sexually provocative imagery.

No Australian media outlets asked if Gemma Ward was too young for AFW, even though Ward was 15 when she debuted on its runways in May 2003, one of many 15 year-olds who have participated in the event.

Nor were any questions asked when Tallulah Morton opened the Josh Goot show in May 2005. Morton's agent told media outlets that she was 14. It later emerged that she was in fact 13 at the time.

Banning underage models from major fashion events does not protect them from exploitation. Notwithstanding unscrupulous parties who try to take nude backstage shots of models changing, underage girls are in fact likely to be safer at major fashion events than anywhere else, by virtue of the fact that these events are crawling with media outlets.

Banning Jagaciak from AFW did not prevent the subsequent production and publication of yet more provocative photographs - including several shots in which her breasts are clearly visible.

Evidently neither IMG nor Jagaciak’s parents have had a problem with that.

That’s great if Jagaciak has finally cracked the big time. Well done. She would undoubtedly have arrived there with or without a few turns down the relatively low profile Sydney runway.

And look, if any company has a history of embracing sexually provocative imagery of teenagers, it’s Calvin Klein.


Anonymous said...

What, no mention of the tumble at Leger? That was the best bit! She handled herself like a real pro.

When an agent finds a girl as young as Jagaciak who just 'gets it' and can make bank, how can we really expect them to shelve the girl until they are 16? It's like striking oil when you just put a hole in your bucket.

I'm with you Patty - age appropriate work and chaperones for babymodels.

AusAnna said...

she does loook amazing, that is quiet a feat. but she is a year older now, i remember a big difference between the ages. x

Anonymous said...

It's up to the parents to 'shelve the girl' as the agencies have no scruples.

That was a bit frightening the way she was stalked on the way to school by journalists -- far worse than doing a minor fashion week.

you should do a blog like this for Canadian models too.

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