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Meredith
8th March 2012, 01:27
Have the powers that be finally stopped turning a blind eye to the appalling abuses of the minus-size fashion establishment?

Let's hope so.

Here are two articles about an important court case in the Netherlands which should have significant ramifications worldwide:

http://www.thestar.com/living/fashion/article/1142267--holland-s-next-top-model-deemed-too-fat-wins-suit-against-elite-agency

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2111606/Ananda-Marchildon-Hollands-Next-Top-Model-winner-awarded-55k-lawsuit.html

The basic point:

Canadian-born Ananda Marchildon, a former winner of the television show Holland’s Next Top Model, won a lawsuit Wednesday against the modelling agency that fired her because her hips were two centimetres too big.

“I’ve had such fantastic support from people on the Internet and media,” says Marchildon, 25, from her home in Zaandam, outside Amsterdam. “I’m starting to feel much better every day about my butt,” she adds with a laugh.
It's no laughing matter, though. That "two centimetre" ruling may sound absurd, but situation becomes even more insane when one discovers first what the model's original measurements were, and then what the agency was requiring of her.

According to the ruling, though Marchildon had gained weight since getting the contract, she had a hip measurement of 92cm - about 36.2in - when she won, and Elite could not demand that she go down to 90cm - about 35.4in.
Those sizes equate to a U.S. size 2. In other words, skeletal.

No grown woman should have hips as narrow as 36 inches. Indeed, 46 inches would be a comfortable, womanly size, the smallest range of a true plus-size model. But 36 inches is tiny.

And for the agency to want her to be skinner still, to be below 36 inches, is inhuman.

What's more, the model is 5ft 11in, so on her, those 36-inch hips look like 32 inches on a woman of non-Amazonian height. It basically translates to no hips at all.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of the article is the following revelation:

The published ruling included an email exchange between the 5ft 11in model and a representative of Elite in the Netherlands whose name was redacted"

"We agreed that you would come by us every two weeks for an evaluation, how it's going with your diet and exercise and losing weight," the Elite representative wrote.

"We're going to keep measuring you."

"Today, March 23 2010, we measured your hips at 98 centimeters. This is a reminder!"

"The goal is that you have a hip circumference of no more than 90 centimeters at the end of June."
Good god. This is grimly totalitarian -- for the agency to be measuring her and practically threatening her. This is tantamount to enforced starvation-torture. If the model had hips of 98 centimetres (39 inches), then at last, she was developing at least a semblance of shape -- still underweight, but not as painfully so as before.

Any reasonable agency would have been thrilled by this improvement in her physique and marketed her enthusiastically, especially given her Top Model win.

The court clearly recognized the nonsensical nature of the agency's demands and, rightly, awarded her the fee:

The court awarded her around £55,000 in damages, plus interest and legal fees.

The fashion industry has often faced criticism for creating unrealistic expectations about women's bodies and forcing models to undergo harmful diets.

Agencies say that they respond to the demands of clients, and ultimately customers - a model that doesn't look right won't get work.
That last statement is especially significant. For too long, agencies and designers have been able to hide behind finger-pointing at each other, making excuses about "the market," and so forth. The Star article includes the following observation:

It’s the designers, not the modelling agencies, who set the standards, explains Brandon Hall, an agent at Sutherland Models in Toronto. Hips measuring 92 centimetres may not fit a designer’s criteria for a runway model, he says.

“It’s sad. A girl can be stunning but not considered thin enough,” says Hall. “At the last two shows of the season, the girls were thinner and thinner.”
So much for any claims that the industry can "regulate itself." Rubbish! Both the designers and the agencies are at fault, and both will keep forcing models to starve and imposing an anorexic standard on society until they're forced to start booking responsibly.

In the Holland case, though, the court finally saw the light and essentially said, "If that's the industry, then it doesn't matter whether it's the fault of the designer or the agencies. The industry as a whole is wrong, and it must be held accountable."

Hopefully, this ruling will stop other agencies from browbeating their girls into starving themselves -- and that includes plus-size agencies as well as straight-size agencies.

In addition to her court-case win, the nicest coda to the story is that the model has subsequently been booked at her normal size:

In the Netherlands, underwear company Sloggi hired Marchildon for a one-time shoot on Monday to show that she is still fit for modelling work.

'It's too crazy for words that a model who's her size would be written off as too f**,' said spokesman Monica van Alewijn, who added that Marchildon is thinner today than most models the company uses.

'She's just a beautiful woman, and for heaven's sake she shouldn't starve herself,' the spokesman said.
Bravo. A model with 39-inch hips should be the smallest size that even a minus-size brand uses, not the biggest.

The future of the fashion industry is, and must be, companies like Sloggi, which hire a model precisely because she does not starve herself. Agencies that try to stop this positive development deserve to be finest and sued for all they have, so either they change their curve-o-phobic booking policies or go bankrupt and clear the way for more sensible agencies.