Fashion company ignores experts – again
Witchery just doesn’t get it. Or chooses not to.
Last year a number of child development experts expressed concern about a Witchery campaign which presented adultified images of children modelling its fashions. Emma Rush, lecturer in ethics at Charles Sturt University and lead author of two significant reports on the sexualisation of children published by the Australia Institute, wrote about Witchery in a piece titled ‘Children are not miniature adults or fashion accessories’ here late last year:
A child is not a miniature adult. They are not a fashion accessory. They are a developing human being and need the cultural space to be just that. Yet we are now seeing constant marketing of adult appearance culture to children, as in, for example, the latest ads for the Witchery Kids brand. The Witchery Kids campaign is simply one particularly sophisticated example of corporations functioning to close down that cultural space for kids to be kids, with resulting ‘appearance anxiety’ for children during a period in their lives when they need the space to develop into their own person.
The wording of the new Witchery Kids campaign, ‘We believe that fun and imagination are the centre of every child’s universe’, is not reflected in the marketing images. Not one of the children in the images is smiling and it would be stretching it to say that even three of them are engaged in imaginative activities…
Nothing about the campaign images recognises that children are anything other than miniaturised adults. You could replace the children in the images with adults and nothing would appear odd. The images invite you to ‘read’ the children as adults…Read the full article and see pics from that campaign here
But Witchery couldn’t care less. They’ve repeated the exercise a mere five months later, stylising and posing children as fashion-conscious mini-me’s:
As described by the Herald Sun in Witchery’s Style Recruits campaign “unsmiling children aged 5-8 are pictured against a drab streetscape, decked out in combat-style garb, knee-high socks and short skirts, and leopard print.”
Attention Customer Service
To whom it may concern,
As the Director of Kids Free 2B Kids I have been inundated with emails from people concerned about the way you have portrayed children in your catalogues.
I notice that complaints were also posted on the Witchery Kids facebook page prior to the article in the Herald Sun this past Monday. I notice the comments page remains disabled.
A person unknown to me emailed your reply [to them] this afternoon.
It is easy to reject the notion that you ‘intentionally’ conveyed children in an adultified way.
Whilst that may be true, it is extraordinary, given the reaction from child advocates and child developmental professionals to your previous catalogue.
I also think it’s extraordinary that you state the children chose the poses without direction. In my experience photo shoots are highly controlled and managed to the finest detail.
I am fully aware of the role of the NSW Children’s Guardian. Kids Free 2B Kids placed an FOI application in 2008 to better understand the process involving children and advertising at the government department.
It was revealed that Saatchi and Saatchi (for David Jones) gave the photo shoot directive “They are 10-12 years, so slightly more adult and sexy”.
That directive passed through the NSW Children’s Guardian. The directive also stated: “This is a branding exercise for DJ’s where we must communicate aspirational kid’s fashion”.
Last year when Cotton On came under fire for its adult sexualised slogans on children’s wear – there was a lot of initial resistance.
The CEO eventually called a meeting with me and then invited me to Geelong to meet with the National Clothes buyer.
They understood, after a lot of outcry from the community that they had crossed a line – even though they were aiming for ‘edgy and humorous’.
They also withdrew 40,000 items of clothing from their stores Australia wide and put in place protocol that did not previously exist.
Whilst they were initially re-acting – I appreciated their willingness to listen and learn and ultimately take proactive responsibility.
My invitation to the Witchery CEO is to make contact with myself or Dr Michael Carr Gregg to hear the concerns of child development professionals and learn about latest research.
Julie Gale, Director, Kids Free 2B Kids
Witchery claims it doesn’t support the adultification of children. It’s just got a funny way of showing it.
In the same week Witchery employed its children-as-adults marketing tactics, came the latest issue of Vogue Living, featuring a front cover fold out which opens to reveal a young girl also posed, dressed, and styled in an adult woman way, dressed in riding gear and situated in a huge mansion.
I dare anyone to justify this with standard ‘It’s just a little girl playing dress ups’ line. This is no dress-up. The clothes fit perfectly. This is a young girl deliberately made to look older. Her hair, make-up, fashion style, pose and mature intense gaze invite us to read her as not as a girl but a woman. And that is a dangerous thing to do.
If we don’t protest this, what will be next?
Don’t buy Witchery. Don’t buy Ralph Lauren either.
To contact Witchery email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact Ralph Lauren email