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article imageGrowing demand for baby-face models, says dead Russian teen's agent

By Peter STEBBINGS (AFP)     Oct 31, 2017 in World

The Chinese agency responsible for a 14-year-old Russian model who died in Shanghai said on Tuesday there is a growing demand worldwide for younger-looking girls in the fashion industry.

Vlada Dzyuba died in hospital on Friday, sparking accusations that she had been overworked and underpaid during a two-month working stint in China that included Shanghai Fashion Week.

Dzyuba's Chinese agency ESEE Model Management has vehemently denied that the brunette teenager, who was to turn 15 on November 8 and died without her family at her side, had been exhausted by a punishing schedule.

ESEE president Johney Zheng told AFP that Dzyuba was the youngest model his firm had represented in its 14 years and was part of an accelerating trend in the modelling industry.

"Her face looked young because there is a new generation coming, so the brands always want that the models can look younger and younger because consumers in this internet age are getting younger and younger," he said.

"Fashion brands are focused on the young consumers, that means mostly high school and university students."

ESEE, which calls itself one of the biggest modelling agencies in China, provided a copy of a hospital certificate that gave the cause of Dzyuba's death as a type of septicaemia, the invasion of bacteria into the bloodstream.

Initial reports in Russia said that Dzyuba died of meningitis -- another type of meningococcal infection -- compounded by exhaustion, but ESEE said doctors found no signs of meningitis.

Shanghai-based ESEE, which has Chinese and international models, male and female, has come under fire over why a 14-year-old girl was allowed to model in China without her parents being present.

The company, which has declined to give precise figures for how much the teenager earned, is working with authorities and Zheng believes that Dzyuba's death could result in a change in Chinese law.

But until then, the pressure grows for girls who look as young as possible, Zheng said, citing Japan as an example of a country where baby-faced models are popular.

Zheng said that most of the models with ESEE are aged 18 or above but they took on Dzyuba because she had experience working abroad, in Taiwan earlier this year, and "her personality was closer to 16".

"From this case I don't think we will do that again," he said.

"It's too much risk: in future we will tell the team not to sign models below 16."

Zheng and Carrie Fang, founder and chief agent of ESEE, denied media reports that Dzyuba pocketed as little as $8 a day and had collapsed after a gruelling 13-hour photo shoot.

Fang was at Dzyuba's hospital bedside as she slipped away, suffering multiple organ failure.

Dzyuba's mother Oksana was expected to fly to Shanghai this week.

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