In the fashion world, thin will always be in — just not too thin. What
qualifies as too thin is a debate raging from New York to Milan, and no
matter where one stands, there is one thing almost everyone agrees on:
enforcing any kind of body-type rule for models is nearly impossible.
the much-ridiculed move last fall by officials in Madrid to ban what
they considered too-thin models and the death last month from anorexia
of 21-year-old Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston, the issue is
forefront once again because Italy’s Camera Della Moda plans to promote
a nationwide campaign against anorexia, recruiting the fashion industry
as a key ally. The Council of Fashion Designers of America also said it
is considering drawing up guidelines for American designers, editors
At a time when size zero is becoming increasingly
common, many in the industry said that the plans to regulate model size
are a noble effort but are impractical. They point out that every body
type is different and that in many cases, models are thin either
because they are young and not physically mature or it is in their
genes and not necessarily indicative of an eating disorder.
Grumbach, the president of France’s Chambre Syndicale, believes that
though anorexia is a "serious public health problem," it won’t be
solved by regulating the size of girls allowed to walk in shows.
best way to solve the problem is to talk and write about it," said
Grumbach, adding that imposing rules on the size of girls would become
"too subjective" and tricky to manage. "It’s a false remedy to think
that by slapping down a bunch of rules that you’re going to solve a
serious problem. Paris isn’t interested in creating those type of
Even the man who is stimulating the latest debate — Mario Boselli,
president of the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana — admits the
difficulties. "The idea is that a doctor certifies a model’s health
based on different parameters even if they’re skinny, because skinny
doesn’t mean anorexic," he said Wednesday. "Take Gisele [Bündchen]:
She’s thin but in great shape and healthy. It’s like the doctor’s
certificate that you need to get your driver’s license. We want to push
a healthier and sunnier woman."
Boselli and Giovanna Melandri, the Italian minister for sports
activities and youth-driven programs, unveiled the plan Tuesday to
promote a nationwide campaign in Italy against anorexia. The idea is to
develop a manifesto with support from designers, top brands, model
agencies and photographers that would seek to ban the use of emaciated
models in advertising and on the catwalks.
[of the proposed manifesto] are still to be defined, but we hope that
designers, photographers and model agencies will embrace it. For
designers that don’t, we may have to penalize them by not assigning a
slot on the calendar or taking them off the official calendar." He said
this should also apply to the big-league designers.
Designers and industry executives generally
are fully behind the ideal. Giorgio Armani said, "I am in line [with
minister Melandri]. For my shows, I’ve never wanted girls that were too
thin. I prefer models that know how to wear my clothes."
the Madrid proposal last fall, Donatella Versace told WWD, "I support
completely what happened in Madrid. We shouldn’t promote models that
are too slim. Anyway, models cannot be overweight as well. You work in
fashion, so it’s tricky."
Diane von Furstenberg, president of
the CFDA, said in a statement, "It is undeniable that fashion has a
huge impact on young women. Therefore, it is important that, as an
industry, we encourage good health and self-empowerment as beauty. The
entire industry has to remain sensitive and aware of this issue, but
Steven Kolb, executive director of the
CFDA, said the association has started looking into ways to promote
working with healthier models. He hopes there will be a development
before the New York shows in February that will involve the entire
fashion community, from designers to agencies and magazine editors, as
well as health professionals who are experts in eating disorders.
However, Kolb noted, "I don’t think we would ever mandate or regulate
the situation, but we can suggest or recommend healthy alternatives and
bring the issue more to the forefront."
Lam underscored the importance of promoting a healthy look, but the
designer does not necessarily believe in legislating model standards.
"Then you start to pigeon-hole an ideal," Lam said. "Some people are 5
feet 10 inches and have an incredible metabolism and genetic makeup."
said that he always makes a conscious effort to cast healthy models.
"There is really no way you can hide it when someone is unhealthy on
Sally Singer, fashion news and features director
at Vogue, said editors want the girls to be healthy and not
suffering from eating disorders. "It’s better for the industry when the
girls are healthier and not emaciated, and clothes look better on them.
There’s a reason why the supermodels [in the Nineties] were so
successful," she said, since they projected a healthy image and looked
terrific in the clothes — from the curvaceous Christy Turlington and
Cindy Crawford to the athletic Naomi Campbell.
Singer said she’s
observed on the runways that "the girls are increasingly young and
small and not terribly persuasive as models. We would welcome designers
and casting people to choose girls who project a more healthful image.
We try to use girls who really project a personality. We don’t use the
newest girl of the moment."
Cathy Gould, director of Elite
North America, said, "This disease is being approached the wrong way.
It is an illness, but there is no scientific proof that having thin
models or actresses makes people become anorexic or bulimic. I would
rather see all this money and attention being spent on research as
opposed to pointing fingers at models who are naturally thin and tall."
One leading model’s agent, who requested anonymity, said "It’s not
about the models — it’s about the designers who make the size-zero
samples. The problem comes from the people who set the rules. The
people who really need to do something is the designers. If a girl is a
size two, she can’t do the show.
models have nothing to do with it. Those poor girls are being blamed. A
lot of them are really naturally skinny because they are 17 years old,"
the agent said.
A spokeswoman for the
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, a
Highland Park, Ill.-based not-for-profit organization, said, "The media
and fashion industry use role models that are very slender and petite.
It is our hope that the fashion industry can promote positive body
image and that individuals come in all shape and sizes. There is
absolutely no such thing as an ideal body size or weight or height. In
addition, this extreme focus by designers on the super-skinny model is
not healthy for the professionals on the runway and…the young girls
and teens who view them."