I decided to write an entry about my thoughts on the fashion industry's use of thin models. It is a topic that I think is misunderstood and I wanted to share my viewpoint on the matter.
Recently, the fashion industry has yet again been put under the spotlight for perpetuating an ideal of beauty with the adage that thinner is always better. There have been health concerns raised about anorexia becoming rampant in the modeling industry especially after Ana Carolina Reston, a Brazilian model, died from anorexia in 2006. Ana was certainly not the only anorexia victim and many women, not just models, suffer from the terrible disease. So, is the fashion industry to blame? Is society to blame? And what does that really mean, anyway?
There are several sides to this conflict and the debate goes something like this. There are those in the fashion industry that defend the use of thin models. One such example is the head designer of Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, who famously said that the fashion world was all to do "with dreams and illusions and no one wants to see round women." Then there are those like London designer Mark Fast who are encouraging a shift in the industry from stick-thin women, to curvier, voluptuous women. In both his Spring and Fall 2010 collections, Mark used plus-sized models in his runway shows, which caused quite the stir. Yes, the women were beautiful, but the question remains, do they belong on the runway?
Crystal Renn in the Mark Fast Fall 2010 show
Here is where I stand on the issue. Modeling is like any other profession where the body is a critical component of your performance. A football player needs to be massive to be able to push other people around. A model needs to be thin to be able to properly display clothing. Have you ever sat down and thought about it? What is a model's job? Is it to be pretty and represent the ideal for beauty? No, it's to be nothing more than a human hanger. Models needs to be blank canvases on which the clothing is painted on. Curves are distracting. The designer doesn't want you looking at the model's curves instead of the garment they produced. Also, it is important to note how the fabric lays on different body types. The more three-dimensional a body is, the more difficult it is to see the garment properly. When designers make a collection, they make them in a "sample size" which is typically a size 0 or 2. The idea is to save fabric. When working with expensive fabrics, especially in couture clothing, it is more economical to use less. In the end, fashion is a business and unfortunately, money drives all industries. Magazines will keep putting thin models in their pages and designers will continue to send thin girls down the runway, as long as that is what makes them more money.
The most important point to make is that this has nothing to do with beauty. I don't think beauty comes in one size. In fact, personally, I think curves are beautiful. Plus-sized models are generally very beautiful girls. Last year, V magazine had a photo spread that had plus-sized model Crystal Renn modeling the same clothing as a typical thin model and had their photos side by side for comparison. The point they were trying to make was that both of these models look great in the clothes. I don't disagree with them. Yes, they both look great. The thin model doesn't out-model Crystal. But then why stop at just thin vs. thick? Even plus-sized models have flawless faces with perfectly sculpted features and blemish-free skin. Should the industry "embrace the normal girl" and start hiring models with crooked teeth, bad complexions and droopy eyelids?
Also, alluding back to Lagerfeld assertion that the fashion world was all to do "with dreams and illusions", it's imperative to make the distinction between the runway and the real world. The majority of us do not wear couture clothing. Designer clothing, runway shows, magazine ads; these are not representations of the world we live in. They are extensions of a fantasy world created by the minds of Galliano, Armani and Jacobs. Kelly Cutrone, a prominent fashion show producer, said that "Women shouldn't be comparing themselves with these girls. These girls are anomalies of nature. They are freaks of nature. They are not average. They are naturally thin and have incredibly long legs compared to the rest of their body. Their eyes are wide set apart. Their cheekbones high." In essence, they are part of the fantasy world. They are part of the massive performance piece that is a runway show.
Instead of attacking the fashion industry, the media, or "society" for perpetuating negative body images, remember that fashion is inherently an art form. If designers choose to have their art displayed on an unconventional canvas, that is their choice. But if the majority of designers want to use the same standard type of canvas, they shouldn't be chastised for it either. I personally think clothes look better on the runway on thin models. Although I am well aware that body image disorders are running rampant in young men and women in our society, changing the sample size of garments used in a fashion show to a size 10 is not going to solve any problems. Yes, it is important that the models remain healthy, and I absolutely believe that that is something that should be regularly monitored by their agency. But, ultimately, I think it is ridiculous to point fingers and to demand a reform of a $100 million dollar industry that is based on artistic design and personal taste.