Wednesday, 2 February 2011

do you think i'm skinny?

The ugly side of fashion seems to finally be having a much needed reality check as designers are urged to ‘handle with care'.

This comes in the light of the news released on Monday that president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), Diane Von Furstenberg has issued new guidelines to ensure that models are treated well during Fashion Weeks. The recommendations mainly regard the models’ health and safety, stipulating that healthy meals and snacks should be provided backstage for models. The guidelines also set out to protect the vulnerability of young models, stating that no model under the age of sixteen is to be hired by any designer. No exceptions.

Summary of the guidelines:
  • Educate the industry to identify the early warning signs in an individual at risk of developing an eating disorder through workshops and encourage those who do show signs to seek professional help in order to continue modelling.
  • Supply healthy meals, snacks, and water backstage and at shoots and provide nutrition and fitness education.
  • Support the well-being of younger individuals by not hiring models under the age of sixteen for runway shows; not allowing models under the age of eighteen to work past midnight; and providing regular breaks and rest.
  • Promote a healthy backstage environment by raising the awareness of the impact of smoking related diseases, ensuring a smoke-free environment and address underage drinking by prohibiting alcohol. 

What does this all mean for the industry? Is it a step in the right direction? Or a case of a little too late?

I am of mixed opinion. It is all well and good issuing guidelines but the real test comes down to whether they are actively implemented and to what extent. I think it will take considerable time before every single catwalk show worldwide is governed by these rules. Obviously, its encouraging to see the industry taking active steps to protect models’ well-being but it is a bit late in the day considering how many tragic tales could have had happier endings if something of this sort had been actualized years ago. Isabelle Caro, a French model is the most recent case. The most extreme case at that; she headed an anti-anorexia campaign at Milan Fashion Week 2008, in the hope of getting a law passed by the French government that would prohibit models from working in the fashion industry if they did not weigh enough. She died in November last year, weighing a measely five stone. It amazes me, that so many who had come before Caro (Ana Carolina, sisters Eliana and Luisel Ramos) had not provided the wake-up call the industry desperately needs.

The way I see it; there is no need to go from one extreme to the next as the introduction of special ‘plus-size catwalk shows’ (NYFW S/S ‘11 last year) could have equally detrimental effects on young girls’ perception of beauty. There is a distinct difference between slim and being anorexic. Neither sending a size zero nor a size sixteen model down a catwalk to parade beautiful clothes connotates healthy ideologies.

I could go into an elaborate size-zero versus plus-size debate but it would only be a regurgitation of what so many articles have already discussed so I shall conclude; it is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

It remains to be seen as to whether all this will work which will only be demonstrated by a decrease in the rate of eating disorder patients but I do salute Diane for flying this flag. It’s about time.

What do you think?



  1. This is a very sad subject. And what's even more sadder is that our society ignores it. I just don't know what more to say when all that you find around you is closed eyes and ignorance.

  2. This is a very interesting and well written post, thanks for sharing. I agree that this is a step in the right direction, but that something should have been done a very very long time ago xxx


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