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Old 30th December 2011   #4
Join Date: July 2005
Posts: 1,784
Default Re: Agencies suppressing plus-size models

Originally Posted by Meredith
this is clear and undeniable evidence that agencies are tampering with a designer's decisions as to which size models they should use. Agencies are strong-arming designers NOT to use plus-size models.

This is not subtle or implicit discrimination. This is out-and-out aggressive, targeted exclusion. It is unthinkable that an industry could be so unregulated as to allow these kinds of business practices to exist.

Indeed, the idea that the industry is allowed to continue such discriminatory practices is incomprehensible. We live in a world where tenuous claims of "exclusion" in most fields are treated with devout solemnity by the media, and are presented as acts of unconscionable heresy by the supposed perpetrators of such exclusion.

But the religion of "tolerance" is nakedly selective in terms of which groups are favoured and protected and championed, and which are not, and gorgeous plus-size women are emphatically not a favoured group. Rather, as we all know too well, the media itself discriminates against full-figured women, so why should anyone be surprised that it fails to take up the cause of plus-size models, even if such models are involved in a case of genuine, unconscionable exclusion?

When coupled with beauty, physical fullness in young women is still seen as an embodiment of privilege, in the traditional sense, and the levelling mission of the modern media is to trample on all groups or individuals seen as traditionally "privileged," and in turn to favour others at their expense.

Both the fashion industry and the media are shown to be crassly discriminatory in this incident--the fashion world for enacting this exclusion, and the media for failing to denounce it with the vigour with which it denounces discrimination against others.

However, M. Lopez's point that entry into the so-called "mainstream" fashion world isn't a desirable goal in the first place, given the corrupt, toxic nature of the size-0 industry, is well taken. Thus, in a case of "agencies suppressing plus-size models," the kind of suppression that is most troubling is not the anorexia-worshipping fashion establishment's exclusion of plus-size models from so-called "mainstream" events or publications, but the plus-size industry's own suppression of genuinely full-figured models (size 16 and up).

We have abundant evidence of this, to say the least. It is confirmed time and again in any interview that we conduct.

In our discussion with the marketing personnel from Addition-Elle, we were told the following:

HSG: Perhaps this is not a fair question to ask you, since you're much better than many plus-size companies in terms of the models whom you feature. But where does this idea originate that women want to see size-10 or size-12 plus-size models?

TRUDY: Agencies who have plus-size models, that's what they're supplying.

When we asked a similar question of Nancy LeWinter, former publisher of Mode and current creative director of One Stop Plus, we received a similar answer:

HSG: Is there any chance that the models could creep up a little bit in size?

NANCY LeWINTER: [pause] You know what? We're using the top models in the industry--

HSG: I--

NANCY LeWINTER: --whatever those people are. Today they were 12, 14, 16. Tomorrow they may be 14, 18, 20. We have no idea.

And who decides which are the "top models"? The agents, it seems.

In our
interview with FFFWeek's creator and CEO, Gwen DeVoe told us that her insistence on using true plus-size models is a source of tension between her and the agencies, who would prefer that she use their smaller girls:

HSG: With regards to the forthcoming runway show, I have to mention—I can’t thank you enough for keeping the models in your show to a size 14 and up.

GWEN: Really? But they beat me up for it. The agencies, they hate me, I think.

And of course, we all remember Marina Zelner saying, in her interview with the Judgment of Paris, that she had to reject a model who had diminished herself due explicitly to agency pressure:

MARINA: When she showed up—we have sample 16—and we started trying it on her, and we couldn’t believe what was happening. Well, she lost 45 pounds. And we felt horrible for her, but the bottom line is, I cannot use these images. This is not a true representation of what my brand is all about, which is empowering beautiful, curvy, sophisticated women. And she shared with me that her agent actually suggested that she should be losing weight . . .

HSG: Oh, my God.

MARINA: Yeah, it’s very frustrating. But it’s still out there. It still exists.

HSG: That’s so appalling.

MARINA: Absolutely. I felt the same way about it.

But most revealingly of all, in our 2002 interview with Mia Stringfield, the booker of the plus-size division at the former Irene Marie agency in Miami, which once had one of the top two plus-size boards in the city, the agent confessed the following to us:

HSG: How much influence do bookers have over clients’ choice of models?

MS: It depends on the client. Some clients will ask, “What do you think? Who do you think I should book? Just tell me who.” Some others, like a big campaign, where they’re going through this whole process of elimination, they may ask you, “Well, who has a better shape for this shoot?” or “Who do you think would be appropriate?” and your input is definitely valuable, but in the end, it’s still the client’s decision. So it depends on the client. But I would definitely say that we have a big influence.

Given that agents can have so much influence on a client's decision, and given that numerous clients complain that agencies are sending them models who are smaller and less plus-size than what they wish to be using, the cases of "agencies suppressing plus-size models" that really matter, when it comes to size celebration, are those that involve agencies favouring faux-plus girls over genuinely full-figured models, over a size 16.

There are notable exceptions to the rule, of course. Milk Management, for example, has been very supportive of luscious plus-size goddess Sophie Sheppard, a U.K. size 18, and the agency avows that it would never pressure her to diminish herself. Cases such as this are to be applauded, just as cases where agencies try to shrink the size of their models are to be condemned.

Let us hope that in the future, agencies will make their own contribution to size celebration both by representing fuller-figured models, and by using their acknowledged influence to help those models achieve success and visibility. Because true plus-size beauty is what the public wishes to see.

And in the case of agents that do not offer models who reflect customer wishes, clients need to politely but firmly stand up to them and insist on booking true plus-size models. It is to the public, not to the agencies, that clients are beholden, because it is customer support that makes the very existence of the plus-size fashion industry possible.

Gorgeous full-figured model Lindsey Garbelman, more opulent and beautiful than ever at a size 18, modelling for Belk, fall/winter 2011:

Click to enlarge

- Our interview with Lindsey, part one and two.

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