The brand, Hot as Hell, sent social media into a tailspin when it had primary school-aged girls on the catwalk to debut their new children’s range at Miami Swim Week in Florida, USA.
The collection dubbed Hot as Halo included one and two piece swimwear.
Images were shared to the company’s Instagram page and while many commenters were positive, others were furious to see little girls modelling the bathers.
One stunned user wrote: “Kids are never too young to be taught that their only worth is their physical appearance. This is seriously awful.”
Another said: “I would be so sad to see my nieces like that. Please let children be children and don’t invite them to walk down the runway. This is sexualization of children. “Hot” shouldn’t be in a context with children’s looks and you can not justify it by adding “Halo”. You do have a choice, please let it be to protect children.”
Some hit out at the parents’ “ridiculous decision” to permit their daughters to model, and one now-deleted comment likened it to “child abuse”. Click through the images below to see snaps from the fashion show.
Some remarked it was “disturbing” and “weird” for little girls to be on a fashion runway at their age.
“I think this is something unhealthy in the long term. Maybe not for those exact girls, but for the society,” one wrote.
But of course, not everybody agreed. Some jumped to the brand’s defence, emphasising this was “all innocent” and pointing out many “little girls would dream of modelling one of these pieces.”
“Perhaps the parents already taught these kids that looks aren’t everything,” they said.
A photo posted by HAH | Hot-As-Hell (@we_are_hah) on Jul 15, 2016 at 8:26pm PDT
The brand’s global sales director has since piped up in the comments in an attempt to clear the air, explaining the girls on the runway were daughters of company staff or friends.
“They were not ‘bedazzled’ or made up to be like pageant spectacles or objectified. We stand for respect, for women of all ages, colors and sizes, and are about providing a legacy for our daughters,” they wrote.
“(You will see in the whole show) our models in their 20’s, 30’s and 50’s with their own daughters as well as our beautiful pregnant models.”
And while we’re on the topic of bathers, he’s a complete history of swimwear. Post continues after video…
A “proud” mum of the one of the kids also spoke out. She said the girls were purely “doing this for fun” to support the swimwear line.
“They go to school together, dance together, they are little girls who like to dress up. And by the way – my little girl… wanted to do this! She begged me! She couldn’t wait to go,” she wrote, before thanking the brand for boosting her formerly shy daughter’s self esteem.
Children modelling swimwear is by no means a new issue. Many brands in the past have come under fire for similar stunts.