Ten-year old (yes, 10) Kaia Crawford is "one to watch" if you believe this week's Grazia (which, incidentally, I generally do). Lottie Moss, Kate Moss's 13-year-old step-sister, has been signed up to Storm Model Management before she has even hit puberty. 15-year-old Hailee Steinfeld, meanwhile, is currently enjoying a stint as the international face of Miu Miu. Fashion critics may be falling over themselves to tell us that 2012 is the year of the "older model", but much of this evidence indicates the opposite. The fashion world, and designers in particular, are looking to younger and younger girls to show off their clothes.
But why is there this obsession with youth on the Prada and Balenciaga catwalks (among many others), and where did it come from? Fashion has always loved the "bright young things" that are drawn to its glamour like moths to a flame, but some of these girls are barely old enough to be dressing in adult clothes, yet alone be parading them down a catwalk in Milan. Many model bookers cite the very modern malady of FOMO (fear of missing out) as the thing that drives them to spot and sign pre-pubescent girls. With every agency scouring their respective fashion capitals for what they hope might be a "fresh new face" for the season, it is perhaps inevitable that the younger the girl, the fresher she seems, and, perhaps more importantly, the less likely she is to have been seen before elsewhere.
However, this frenzied competition that has led the agency bookers to stand outside girls' school gates and scrutinise the Year 7s and Year 8s as they leave class has unfortunately meant that the goal posts have shifted for us all. Call me old-fashioned, but I'm not sure I want to see the Lolita-esque Dakota Fanning staring out at me from UK Elle's February edition; all vacant stare and red lips. Even more so than this, I'm not sure that I want to be sold clothes by girls that were practically born in a different millennium to me (and, at 22, this is not a nice feeling). Real women will never be able to get back that flat-chested, boyish silhouette (would we want to?!), but the fashion industry insists on pushing it upon us daily, through campaigns, catwalks and glossy magazine covers.
London Fashion Week may say that the girls that they use on their catwalks must be 16 or over, and our magazine editors may defend their cover shoots of teenagers such as the Marc Jacobs model, Elle Fanning (13 years), as artistic statements, but the proof is often in the proverbial pudding, so to speak. And this pudding continually tells us that women like you and I do not enjoy being flogged clothes by the pre-pubescent - in fact, it is often the pieces on a "perfect 10" or a size 12 woman that make us reach into our pockets and part with our cash.
So will the fashion industry catch on to this discrepancy between their ideal and ours? Girls, I reckon there's cause for hope. Fashion is nothing if not fast, and youth, like beauty, is transient. There's a reason why the original super models continue to sell magazine cover after magazine cover. Kaia, Hailee, Elle and co have a lot to learn.