As ever, the most incisive piece on the topic of the fashion industry's continued irresponsibility comes from Liz Jones, writing for The Daily Mail
a few weeks ago.
Each of the points in the article is devastating, making the entire piece a must-read. But here are a few trenchant excerpts.
On the continued resistance by designers to enlist any model with shape:
Designers have always desired models who look like adolescent boys so they can spend time partying instead of learning how to construct patterns, darts, seams...
So true! Project Runway
repeatedly exposes this appalling deficiency in basic skill on the part of designers. Any time one of the challenges involves plus-size models, or "real" women, or anything other than size-0 skeletons, the designers start hyperventilating, breaking into hives, and reaching for the smelling salts. These self-anointed "visionaries" lack the basic ability to make clothing for women's bodies. So what are they doing in fashion? If they like flat surfaces so much, they should be designing wallpaper.
I've often thought that this was the case. It's the same reason why modern painters and sculptors create such ridiculous abstract art. They lack the basic ability to draw or sculpt well,
utterly devoid as they are of the talent that artists throughout history possessed.
Today's minus-size-fashion designers, like modern artists, are frankly just running a big con on everyone. They want to live the life and have the image, but they lack even the most fundamental artistic abilities, so they dub their weird, freakish, terrible designs works of "uniqueness," when in truth, they're just rubbish.
Liz Jones further points out:
At the conference, the CFDA announced guidelines for New York Fashion Week, which began a few days ago. These included banning models aged under 16 and educating the industry to recognise the early signs of eating disorders.
Weren’t they supposed to have done this years ago? It’s the same old same old, especially given that not one model chosen to model for Victoria Beckham is above a [U.S. size 4].
Never mind sacking John Galliano for being racist, why have there been no calls for the head of Karl Lagerfeld, who likes to regularly spit on his customers, i.e., women?
Also true! It's appalling how the press, the public, indeed all women let designers and the fashion industry get away with the grossest and most blatant discrimination against full-figured women -- that is to say, against the majority of women -- at a time when society has become so hyper-attuned to any whiff of discrimination or "intolerance" of any other sort (race, sexuality, etc.). That hypersensitivity leads to colossal overreactions about supposed discrimination that doesn't exist, yet in the case of the fashion establishment's slighting of plus-size women, the discrimination and intolerance is blatantly obvious, yet everyone gives the perpetrators a pass. It's gross hypocrisy.
Ms. Jones offers a cutting put-down of one of the typical dodges used by the fashion industry to avoid criticism: the "bottom line" excuse:
On Friday, London Fashion Week will once again open its doors, and London Mayor Boris Johnson, Samantha Cameron et al will remind us how important the fashion industry is in terms of revenue, morale and jobs. We should support it. It is important, yes, but mostly in the way it infects our lives.
It needs to support us for a change.
Very well said. That last line identifies the mixed-up priorities that run the culture. Instead of thinking of women as grist for the mill, instead of exploiting customers to prop up the fashion establishment's posh lifestyle, that fashion establishment must be made accountable to the public, on whose dime it exists at all.
In this passage, Ms. Jones anticipates the point that the Women24 article makes -- that despite all of the lip service that the fashion industry pays to the eating-disorder crisis (a crisis which it, itself, generates), fashion has studiously avoided making the one and only change that would
solve every problem immediately: increasing the size of the models.
Will London Fashion Week be any different from last year? After all, the Model Health Inquiries and hand-wringing by Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone, what has actually changed?
Caroline Rush, the British Fashion Council’s chief executive, told me: ‘We take model health seriously. No under-16s on the catwalk, healthy backstage environments and bi-annual meetings of the Model Programme Committee, which includes bookers, casting directors and stylists.’
None of these measures prevented cadaverous model Chloe Memisevic walking for Erdem, Roksanda Ilincic and Twenty8Twelve in front of a shocked Samantha Cameron last year.
Ms. Jones offers a specific example that abundantly proves the point: after public stating that she had contacted all of the major designers to cut larger samples, British Vogue
editor Alexandra Shulman goes ahead and puts a cadaverous model on the cover of her magazine:
In 2009, editor Alexandra Shulman wrote to every designer telling them she was tired of receiving samples so small she had to hire ever tinier models to fit them.
Well, the latest cover star is American model Arizona Muse — the model I featured on these pages last year, shocked as I was to see her ribs exposed like a long dead corpse in a swimwear shoot.
Also in Vogue’s March issue is teenage Karlie Kloss, she of the 22 in waist. (I won’t accept that Alex has demonstrated diversity by shooting Adele; we only saw her face!).
The sad thing is, Shulman did once use a plus-size model in her publication: Sara Morrison, a size 16. But for heaven's sake, that was in 1997! She could have done it once per issue, at least.
This fact upsets me even more:
Alex Shulman has just announced she will give a talk to promote her new book, a novel (no, not a riveting expose of the fashion industry), and will be taking questions from the audience on any subject ‘except the question of why are models so thin’.
It is her duty to answer that question. Just as it is mine to keep asking it, until someone offers the truth.
Good lord. Shulman will take questions on any subject except
the model-size issue? But that is the only question that matters, because it goes to the heart of an epidemic crisis of eating disorders which the fashion industry causes, and which the fashion industry could just as easily stop.
In fact, Shulman should be asked no question except
the question of why are models so thin. And that should also be the case with every designer, every editor, every photographer who works in minus-size fashion.
If that issue was treated with the degree of importance that it deserves -- given that it affects the lives of the majority of women and causes actual human fatalities -- then the only question that anyone in fashion would ever
be asked is, "Why are models so thin?"
And maybe if these guiding lights of fashion realized that the model-size issue was distracting attention from everything else, they'd get sick of being asked the question, finally address the problem, and, for once and for all, stop using walking corpses as models and start using full-figured goddesses -- as they should have been doing all these years.