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Old 17th October 2009   #1
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Default More on the Ralph Lauren controversy

I was watching my local news last night and I saw a very disturbing story. Filippa Hamilton, who worked for the Ralph Lauren fashion house since the age of 15 was fired, because she could not fit into the sample clothes. It is very upsetting, to her and to myself as well, because she is 5 foot 10 and weighs 120 pounds. How on earth could she be considered "too large"??!!

As if that were not bad enough, Ralph Lauren photoshopped an image of Ms. Hamilton in which she appeared emaciated. The pictures surfaced on the internet.

Now Ms. Hamilton is speaking out. She had this to say:

It’s not a good example when you see this picture, every young woman is going to look at it and think that it is normal to look like that. It’s not,” she told Curry. “I saw my face on this super-extremely skinny girl, which is not me. It makes me sad. It makes me think that Ralph Lauren wants to have this kind of image. It’s an American brand ... and it’s not healthy, and it’s not right.
This story highlights the problem that this Web site has been championing against. My heart goes out to this model. It's brave of her to come out and speak against this kind of foolishness.
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Old 18th October 2009   #2
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Default Re: More on the Ralph Lauren controversy

Yes, I remember M. Lopez mentioning this story in a recent post. It IS brave of the model to speak out now about why she was fired, and to condemn the image. I wish more models, both plus-size and straight-size, would have the courage to denounce the industry as it needs to be denounced. Unfortunately, most models (even recovering-anorexics-turned-plussize models) cower in fear for their careers, and keep silent about the industry-wide epidemic of eating disorders suffered both by the models themselves, and by the millions of women who follow fashion. At least this one minus-size model is speaking out.

And it's good that she is, because it's clear that Ralph Lauren considered this already-underweight model still to be not cadaverous enough, and wanted her to starve even further, to a point where she would be even more anorexic-looking - and likely literally anorexic.

This is a two-part travesty on the part of the fashion industry: First, the models are already required to be severely skeletal in the first place, which causes them to develop eating disorders - sometimes even to die as a result. Second, as if promoting images of malnourished women weren't bad enough, the industry Photoshops them to make them look even more emaciated, further warping women's perceptions of themselves and what "ideal," "normal" proportions look like.

The public may now be realizing that this contemptible practice isn't rare, or an exception, but is standard operating procedure on the part of the fashion establishment. Witness this post, about yet another Ralph Lauren travesty:


Perhaps the sickest thing of all is that this media flap could be a publicity stunt, and could end up boosting the company's sales. Let's think about that next time before posting, so we don't give these people free publicity, even of the negative kind.

Last edited by HSG : 29th December 2009 at 06:11. Reason: Link edited
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Old 18th October 2009   #3
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Default Re: More on the Ralph Lauren controversy

It certainly is brave of her to speak out against this insanity. Who knows, maybe she'll really wake up and become a plus-size model?
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Old 18th October 2009   #4
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Default Re: More on the Ralph Lauren controversy

This controversy prompted the writing of an important article in the Herald de Paris newspaper:

Its a bit rambling, but nevertheless it is a damning critique of the fashion industry, and goes a long way toward explaining why the industry is institutionally thin-supermacist and anti-feminine:

A few years ago there was an interesting article in the NY Times about fashion designers called: “In Fashion, Who Really Gets Ahead?”, by Eric Wilson. Without bringing up a whole lot that many of us didn’t already know about the fashion industry, that it is an industry dominated by gay males, the article did manage to draw a thinly veiled indictment against the leaders of this industry, namely that they perpetuate an institutional bias against women and straight men.

The author uses an analogy to the contemporary art world in New York City (or rather I should put that word in quotes, because what is produced in New York these days may be called "art", but it is by no means true art ).

[An art-student colleague] was as straight as could be, but he admitted to me that in certain circles he allowed himself to come off as “kinda gay”. I was baffled, “kinda gay? Why?” was my response. “Dude,” he explained, “you almost have to be, I need to sell my paintings, you have to come off a certain way if you want to get in with the right crowd, to get a showing, these galleries down in Soho, they look for a certain kind of artist you know what I mean?”...I found the whole thing to be pretty funny, like something you might see in a situation comedy or an episode of Will and Grace, but as I read through the NYT article it occurred to me that this wasn’t all that funny … this was actually discrimination.

He condemns the androgynous aesthetic imposed by the fashion industry:

[I ] am left even more baffled as I really fail to see the beauty in the emaciated sunken eyeball “on the verge of starvation” look.

As before, the issue, while perhaps funny on the surface, is really not funny at all when you consider the thousands of young women who die of anorexia every year.

You sometimes get the feeling that a lot of these fashion designers don’t really appreciate the female form, or that they perhaps even willfully try to distort it to fit their own perceptions of beauty. You hear a lot of talk from individuals who accuse the fashion industry of glamorizing the “waif” or the heroin addict or even worse, that they reduce the female figure to what appears to resemble that of a thin pre-adolescent boy. You wonder whether Eric Wilson back in December of 2005 wasn’t onto something when he accused the industry of institutionalized discrimination, mentioning at one point that from 1986 to 2005 the Perry Ellis awards had been given to 8 women and 29 men (20 of them openly gay). You wonder if the problem might not be somewhat more sinister than the flippant tone of most reports commenting on the Filippa Hamilton story.

These assertions arent the least bit exaggerated. Consider the following appalling statement, which the author cites:

From that NYT article there is even this astonishing quote by Michael Vollbracht, the current designer of Bill Blass, who said he believed that gay man are demonstrably superior at design, their aesthetic formed by a perception of women as an idealized fantasy:

“I come from a time when gay men dressed women. We didn’t bed them. Or at least I didn’t. I am someone who is really pro-homosexual. I am an elitist. I am better than straight people. Women are confused about who they want to be. I believe that male designers have the fantasy level that women do not.”
That is so twisted, it boggles the mind that any designer would say it. The designers are treating women like inanimate objects that they can starve and torture at will - literally distort, regardless of the physical and psychological damage that this does to women.

Feminism likes to charge that heterosexual males "objectify" women, but I consider that nonsense. Even when they only appreciate women physically, at least they are appreciating something human. But these fashion designers are TRULY objectifying women, in the sense of treating them as inhuman objects to be distorted at their whim, without any thought of the consequences of their actions. Plus, they do so out of a HATRED of the female body, not an appreciation of it.

In his final section, the writer describes how toxically self-contained fashion has become. This ivory-tower mentality is at the root of much of the problem. In one interview, Crystal Renn and her interviewer discussed how the people who run fashion lack an "empathy chip". This is why. They have become so egotistically involved with their own visions that they treat models, and women in general, as irrelevant, inanimate objects, which they can deform any way they like, and get away with it. The "concentration camp" metaphor so frequently applied to this alien aesthetic takes on a whole new, frightening level of significance:

The industry is leaving itself open to all manner of criticism, in essence facilitating the notion that it has become a self perpetuating art form that has moved past its utilitarian roots and is simply its own medium operating under its own specific parameters and its own criteria. That the creative impetus of high fashion is controlled by a select and a closed coterie and that the art form itself can only be accessed and judged within the confines of its own very specific and very distorted referents...To the ordinary fellow on the street, they see crazy outfits on crazy skinny women wearing crazy make up and walking with that crazy runway walk. Its like some sort of huge private joke. isn’t really funny if it is in reality the picture of an industry perpetuating systematically exclusive practices. It is in no uncertain terms, institutionalized bias. It may even be un-American. If we can mandate the hiring of minority teachers to work with predominantly minority student populations, if we can rationalize moving more women into leadership roles, then we might want to think about hiring and promoting a few more women and a few more straight men to work in the fashion industry.

Between being systematically exclusionary, and outright criminal in its promotion of anorexia, this is an industry that needs strict government intervention and oversight in order to be reformed. The people who run it currently are clearly never going to change willingly, regardless of how many thousands of models, and millions of women, suffer for their amusement.

Last edited by HSG : 29th December 2009 at 06:16. Reason: Link edited
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Old 23rd October 2009   #5
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Default Re: More on the Ralph Lauren controversy

Here's an appropriately angry new article about the Ralph Lauren fiasco:

What I like about it is that the author understands that this incident is not some kind of outlier for the fashion industry, but rather indicative of just how truly dysfunctional and destructive it is:

"Digitally altered." There’s a nice way to sanitize it.

Why not just call a spade a spade and say the model, Filippa Hamilton, was disfigured by the Photoshop magic?

The words slashed and sliced come to mind, too.


My second thought was: "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case."

This image is proof that the fashion industry really does want to turn women into in an army of Toothpick People.

I mean, what are models anyway, if not role models for women, beauty and fashion? If these models are inhumanly thin, then what exactly is the message to women (and girls) at whom these images are pitched?

My third thought was this: good.

No really. This absurd image is the best thing to hit the fashion industry in a long time.

In years to come, Photoshopgate will be viewed as the moment when the harsh white light was shone on the lie and truth of this industry.

The lie is that these uber-thin women are even possible. They are not. Filippa’s image is a visual lie perpetrated by the fashion industry, which used Photoshop to do its fibbing.

Even scarier is the truth. And that is that Filippa’s distorted image really does represent the apex of female "beauty" as far as the fashion industry is concerned.

When it’s not possible for models to achieve this ideal through starving and purging, the industry simply doctors up the images to create the emaciated waif they want to display their fashions.

The response from Ralph Lauren was telling. The clothing line apologized, not for the sickly thinness of the model in the image, but for the poor Photoshopping.

In other words, it said sorry because the lie wasn’t good enough. Now there’s a truth for you.

It’s time to unravel this ridiculous notion that emaciation is chic, that Size 00 is meaningful and that it’s fashionable to look like a malnourished heroin addict or famine victim.

Fashion models are freakishly thin. They starve, they purge, they even die in pursuit of the insatiable demand for thinness.

This Photoshopped image is an embarrassment, not just to the designer Ralph Lauren, but to an entire industry that’s been pummelled with this criticism for years.

And rather than make real changes, the industry’s swatted these criticisms blithely aside

The last point is the crucial one- the industry does not, and will not, change on its own, no matter how much the public condemns it. One or two token faux-plus models in one or two token shows a year is nothing compared to the thousands of magazine covers and thousands of shows with thousands of androgynous, anorexic models.

It is intolerable that this industry is allowed to continue ruining women's lives. And the horror will continue, until government legislation puts a stop to it.
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Old 23rd October 2009   #6
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Default Re: More on the Ralph Lauren controversy

Yes, yes, yes! The fashion industry isn't interested in real, flesh-and-blood women; it wants us to disappear, to be replaced with creatures from a diseased fantasy. And the more flesh we have, the more feminine we look, the more intensely we are wished away. I hope that the "harsh white light" is shone on the many egregious acts of the fashion industry.
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Old 24th October 2009   #7
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Default Re: More on the Ralph Lauren controversy

If anyone needs any more indication that fashion is incapable of reforming itself, here it is. Here's an new article about Grace Coddington, the creative director of Vogue.

Even when someone in fashion acknowledges that there is a problem, she doesn't understand the extent of fashion's own culpability in causing it:

Vogue creative director Grace Coddington expressed her concern about the fashion industry's attachment to very young, very thin — and many times anorexic — models, in a talk with ex–Men's Vogue editor Jay Fielden at the New York Public Library last night..."It is a big problem," Coddington admitted.


"But it is a big problem in the fashion industry. And you go to meetings to discuss it, and you think it's kind of futile, because it's such a big thing, and in the end, people are always asking for more and they're always asking for thinner."

Well, then, for heaven's sake, these "people" who are "always asking for thinner" need to be told "No"!

Is it really so impossible for people in the fashion industry to understand that when designers, or photographers, or whoever, are "asking for thinner" that they should be told "No"? This sense of entitlement on the starvation-pushers' part, their certainty that they'll never be told "No," is a big part of the problem.

If a designer is "asking for thinner," the agency should say "No." If an agency sends a thin model, they should be told (by the magazine or the designer) "No." If a designer sends a too-small sample size to Vogue, Vogue should say "No."

Those "Nos" will save girls' lives - literally - and stop the fashion industry's chronic poisoning of young women's minds and destruction of their bodies (not just the models', but those of the millions of women who follow fashion).

The real problem comes in this passage:

But couldn't fashion editors unite on a healthier size for models? "They have to be a little thinner than you and I because you always photograph a little f**ter," Coddington replied, "but you don’t have to go to the extremes they go to. And because they're kids, they take it too far, and they can't regulate their lives, and next thing you know they're anorexic, and it is tragic. And I don't know what the answer is, except to keep on it, which we're all trying to do. Anna's trying to do it. Personally we're not allowed, at Vogue, to work with girls who are very thin"

What??? How can she say that with a straight face? The models in Vogue ARE "very thin." In fact, they're all TOO thin. It is precisely the models in Vogue (and in other fashion publications) who prompt women to develop eating disorders (to say nothing of these requirements causing the models to develop anorexia themselves).

What's especially appalling is Coddington's implication that it's the models' own fault for developing anorexia! The models are constantly being told by agencies, designers, and, yes, magazines, to get thinner, thinner, thinner - so what does she THINK is going to happen? Look at what happens when a model tries not to be underweight: She gets fired (the Ralph Lauren model), or hounded mercilessly and driven out of straight-size modelling (Crystal Renn, Kate Dillon, etc.).

Worst of all is the fact that Coddington sticks to the idea that models "have to be a little thinner than you and I." Thinner than her? In her photo, she herself looks emaciated (and no wonder - she's a former model). No model has to be "a little thinner" than that. No model has to be "a little thinner" than Crystal Renn - or than Charlotte Coyle, for that matter.

If you don't want models to be anorexic, don't require them to look anorexic.

Don't get me wrong - I applaud Coddington for speaking out. But (a) words are insufficient; they need to be translated into action, and (b) her words indicate that even with the best intentions, fashion cannot reform itself, because the people who run fashion today have such a distorted aesthetic that they have normalized an abnormally malnourished look. They look at starvation and see it as the "appropriate" appearance. And any industry that has normalized illness and made it a requirement NEEDS to be reformed - by regulation from outside, in this case, because it clearly can't come from within.
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Old 28th October 2009   #8
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Default Re: More on the Ralph Lauren controversy

Here's a good editorial about the Ralph Lauren issue:

The pertinent sections:

The digitally manipulated Ralph Lauren advertisement of a grotesquely emaciated model is only the latest link in a chain of photoshopped images of women, highlighting America’s unhealthy perception of beauty.

...Ralph Lauren issued an apology, but this was merely a way to harness more publicity and sales, instead of addressing digital manipulation.

Readers assume covers are airbrushed. But why should we have to? Readers should not need to become accustomed to unrealistic portrayals of women. These portrayals spark eating disorders and unattainable desires.

It’s time American consumers say enough to these fake covers. No woman should aspire to look like Ralph Lauren’s model like ads and magazine covers tell us we should.

I appreciate the fact that the writer states, point blank, that the model is grotesquely emaciated. Sadly, that description applies to most straight-size models today, even without airbrushing.

It's also encouraging to see a media outlet identify the fact that Ralph Lauren exploited this issue for publicity.

But best of all is the newspaper's acknowledgment that such images do promote eating disorders. Finally, people are realizing this.

Also, the point that the public shouldn't need to "accustom" itself to being bombarded with anorexic imagery is spot on. The public doesn't need to "accustom" itself to e.coli in the water system, or to asbestos, or to any other toxic impairment of health. Those dangers are outlawed. And androgynous fashion imagery is in the same category, given the fact that it leads to eating disorders with a high mortality rate.
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Old 2nd November 2009   #9
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Default Re: More on the Ralph Lauren controversy

The Ralph Lauren photoshop fail wasn't human-looking at all. But to fire her for being too "big" is just wrong.
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Old 29th December 2009   #10
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Default Re: More on the Ralph Lauren controversy

Originally Posted by MelanieW
Designers are treating women like inanimate objects that they can starve and torture at will - literally distort, regardless of the physical and psychological damage that this does to women.

Feminism likes to charge that heterosexual males "objectify" women, but I consider that nonsense. Even when they only appreciate women physically, at least they are appreciating something human. But these fashion designers are TRULY objectifying women, in the sense of treating them as inhuman objects to be distorted at their whim, without any thought of the consequences of their actions.

A very interesting and persuasive point.

This thread is filled with links to important articles and significant excerpts from those articles, as well as insightful analyses of the issues at hand. How surprising that such a mundane incident as the poor airbrushing of a single image should have generated such a thorough rebuke of the fashion industry. Undoubtedly it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, and released years of pent-up anger against the fashion world and its abuses.

However, the opinion piece that Melanie linked above is the most significant item in this thread, as its author deals squarely with the controversial but unavoidable issue of the orientation of the individuals who control the fashion industry. Such matters of orientation wouldn't be anyone's business, except for the fact that they directly impact the standard of appearance that the industry imposes on women.

Moreover, the quotes that the article includes indicate the colossal arrogance of the individuals who dominate fashion, and their unmitigated contempt for the very women whose appearance they deform with their androgynous vision, and whose money supports their profession and their lifestyles. Reading those quotations from fashion insiders makes it comprehensible how the people who run this industry could be as heedless as they are of the eating disorders that their standards cause. They simply don't care. Not only do they consider themselves "better" than the rest of society (their own words!), but what's worse, they don't have any regard for others at all.

It would even be false to accuse them of prioritizing their selfish "fantasies" over people's actual lives and well-being, because it would dignify their twisted vision too much label it a "fantasy," since that word implies beauty. Rather it is a nightmare, a warped, ugly distortion, a grotesque house of horrors. The Ralph Lauren ad is merely one isolated example of a perverted aesthetic that is the norm, not the exception in this industry. And the most appalling fact of all is that the people who generate it are proud of their obscenities. They revel in the public's discomfort. They relish society's umbrage--because they feel such contempt for everyone outside of their circle.

The article is also helpful because it explicitly relates the world of "high" fashion to the world of modern art. On this forum, we have stressed this link for years, arguing that the two worlds are blighted by the same problems, and dominated by the same types of personalities. Both fields suffer fro the same imposition of a warped aesthetic that is alien to most of society, and favoured by a tiny cabal of like-minded, fringe individuals. The fact that they have such freakish tastes would be irrelevant, except, just as they do in fashion, they have established a complete monopoly on the cultural world. The article reveals how impossible it is for someone to exist in the world of modern art unless they conform to its tastes, and even adopts the personal mannerisms of its chiefs.

If their worlds were just their own little corners of the universe, without any impact on the society at large, none of this would matter. But instead, it matters a great deal, because their decisions in the arts affect the entire culture of the West. And in fashion, their influence is even more pervasive, and even more harmful, because it shapes (and ruins) the self-image of the majority of women worldwide.

The power that these individuals wield is too great, and the standards that they impose too corrosive, for them to be allowed to operate with no public accountability whatsoever. The industry needs regulation, at the very least of the kind that is being proposed in Europe, where bans on airbrushing are being tabled, and misleading ads are being rejected.

But the root cause still needs to be addressed. Either the individuals who control fashion need to finally confront the fact that their cherished aesthetic is toxic to society, and that they can no more continue to propagate it than if their fetish were to promote hard drugs; or, they simply need to be replaced, their monopoly must be broken, and different individuals with healthier aesthetic visions need to be put in their place.

Another view of the fair, plump, pink-cheeked Hilda Clark, from a Coca-Cola ad circa 1900. Notice the round, full arms, and the absence of a visible clavicle (wholly submerged in soft flesh). Gorgeous, feminine dress, and a lovely floral motif. It is possible to have a healthy commercial culture--one that celebrates femininity, exudes natural beauty, and meliorates rather than destroys women's body image.

The beauty aestheic existed for thousands of years. It can exist again.

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