Is the fashion industry finally coming to its senses about a model’s age and body size? These are not easy issues to tackle. But, in a panel discussion on the fashion industry’s response to weight and wellness held recently at Harvard Business School, Michael Kors admitted to the industry’s role in causing eating disorders and further said he will no longer hire models under the age of 16.
“We are talking about children and the pressures on them are horrendous,” he asserted. Kors urged customers not to buy “from companies whose imagery turns you off. If you think what they are showing is ridiculous, say so.”
The weight and age of models is a subject that the fashion industry has long attempted to side-skirt rather than fully admitting its own complicity in the problem. Now, all of that may be changing.
First, however, just consider this: Minimal eating disorders affect an estimated 8 to 10 million people in the United States. What’s more, women suffering from anorexia nervosa have a nine-fold greater risk of death and a 57-fold risk of suicide than other, unaffected women their age.
Babes in the Limelight
Yet, despite these figures, the fashion industry has continued to show its designers’ lines on models who are frighteningly thin, and very often many years younger than they are ostensibly presented to be. A 15- or 16- year old girl who wishes to model for a top designer is more often than not emotionally fragile where weight and overall appearance is concerned. If she gains a pound, she loses the job.
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“Each and every one of us needs to realize we are all responsible for models’ health,” declared Vogue editor in-chief Anna Wintour, another panel member. She said that in the last ten years, the industry’s preference for extreme thinness has “eroded the models’ clout.”
Because of the demand for ultra thinness, many models find themselves out-of-date once they fill out and develop more womanly figures. With their careers over, these models just don’t have enough time to develop a public persona as did the super models of the 90s. Consequently, they don’t get the photo jobs for magazine covers and layouts; instead, these jobs tend to go to actresses.
So. is there any end in sight for this industry habit? A handful of designers and media people hope so. Wintour says her magazine does not use Photoshop to make girls look thinner than they are. And, her magazine has made a commitment to try and show models with a variety of body shapes. Sounds good. But is it real?
Some Positive Changes
Well, Karl Lagerfeld’s plus-size Crystal Renn is on the rise as a fashionable in-demand model.. Prada and several other international designers have cast curvier models for their fall runway shows. Marc Jacobs even cast a 46-year-old model for his runway show. And Wintour will continue editing special Vogue editions dealing with both anorexia and plus-sizes.
In the meantime, as one industry publication put it, “Despite public opinion, Marc Jacobs didn’t cast the buxom swimsuit babes and others on his fall Louis Vuitton runway.” Oh, gee.
In the long run, it still looks like skinny young babes rule the fashion runways. The reason: They make the clothes look better than older, more developed models do. Women like to fantasize themselves as very young and thin. Men like to fantasize about youth, period. Put it all together and these are hard facts to fight.
LET’S HOPE THE FASHION INDUSTRY WILL CONTINUE TO WORK HARD TO STOP THE ANOREXIA SO PREVALENT IN THE INDUSTRY. ONE SMART WAY TO DO THAT IS TO PROMOTE THE PRODUCT AND THE BEAUTY OF THE PRODUCT OVER MAKING EXTREME DEMANDS ON MODELS. HERE ARE SOME GREAT PRODUCTS TO GET STARTED WITH: