Once in a wearyingly regular while, the fashion world waxes self-righteous on weight. We all remember when ’90s waif Kate Moss courted controversy in an interview with WWD. “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” she said. That thintroversy was nothing new. Twiggy was criticized in the ’60s for encouraging an “unrealistic” body image, and while she has since come out in support of actions to curb the unhealthy eating habits perpetuated by celebrity, fashion brands, and the media, she maintains her size zero was natural and merely genetic. I expect that’s true.
So now, two of the world’s biggest fashion behemoths, LVMH and Kering, have banned size zero models from their runways and ad campaigns. This announcement was well timed—just before the start of NYFW, and slated to take effect before the upcoming PFW. Cynical me calls the pursuant PR more calculated than coincidental, but the move is heralded largely (no pun intended) as positive progress to combat unhealthy and unrealistic body images that are blamed by some as contributing to eating disorders like anorexia.
A few years ago, when the weight debate was on trend again, Karl Lagerfeld defended ultra thin models. He suggested that the people attacking the skinny body image were “fat mummies sitting with their bags of crisps in front of the television, saying that thin models are ugly.” Lagerfeld, who unfortunately could not be reached for comment, serves as the creative director at Fendi, a subsidiary of LVMH, who, with Kering, is the architect of this charter to “support the well being of models.” I imagine his stance on the situation is unchanged, though.
Now, full disclosure, I am not naturally skinny. Actually, I’m just simply not skinny at all. I’m sitting at Shoreditch House with my unused gym kit in my bag and a glass of red wine that will now serve as all the exercise I’ll get today, but I’m reminded of an ad campaign by Dove. The concept was “real women,” and it presented plus-sized models in their underwear. That always irked me, as if naturally skinny women were in some way fake. I’m all for celebrating all sizes and shapes, and more diversity is always a good thing, but that ad smacked of hypocrisy to me. And banning size zero models from pursuing their dream doesn’t seem like the answer either. We’ve all heard the horror stories—brands, designers, photographers, editors who body-shame models and foster this culture that leads to misery and, in some cases, eating disorders. I’m sure there have been, are, and will be models subjected to the kind of emotional abuse that will scar them forever. I’m sure we can all agree, that is abhorrent.
But is the answer banning models who are underweight by an average standard, or addressing the culture of abuse that is really the problem? Part of this charter by LVMH and Kering will require that models have a doctor’s certificate that states they are healthy. Shouldn’t that be enough?