Size Zero Models Welcome At London Fashion Week

Illustration for article titled Size Zero Models Welcome At London Fashion Week

The news that fashion models will not be required to pass health checks before working in London Fashion Week got me thinking about the perennial skinny models issue. You know, the size zero conspiracy my cohorts and I cooked up. (True story: we were totally just trying to found a diet support group, but then this Brazilian started in with the calorie counting, someone's hips went down to 33.5", and a Lithuanian was all like, ‘We are in all of the magazines, and we work with all of the clients, so why don't we just hoodwink untold millions of the world's young women into associating thinness with beauty?', and then Vogue booked her and I guess we all just went a little crazy for a while there.)


Anyway. After re-evaluating its plan to improve models' health, the British Fashion Council announced that nobody will have to get a doctor's certificate to walk the runway. But the BFC would like you to know that some of its proposals are going ahead: under-16s won't be on the catwalks, and alcoholic beverages won't be backstage. To which I say, thanks for nothing, British Fashion Council! Bad enough that 90% of shows — yes, even the high-profile ones — don't even pay, you have to take my free booze as well?Seriously, though, I'm just tickled that so many people take an interest in my and my colleagues' health. I know your motivations are pure, and that the politicians involved in advancing this cause aren't the slightest bit interested in furthering their own electoral ambitions by coat-tailing on a high-profile and heavily mediatized industry's most visible issue. I'm happy that there have been symposia and inquiries and initiatives and hectoring articles in the press. I don't even mean that entirely sarcastically: as uncomfortable as it makes me for strangers to think about my health as an Issue, let alone their issue, and as much as I privately grit my teeth and think of all those (well-meaning?) articles whenever a cool and interesting-looking chick I meet at a party finds out what I do for a living and immediately starts a conversation about dieting, it is good news that that people are at least thinking about models' well-being. It doesn't pay to be too flippant when, after all, people have died.But I have one solution, guaranteed effective, that doesn't involve forcing me to go to a doctor and fork over more cash than I make working a show — hell, more cash than I made during most entire fashion weeks — to answer questions about my eating habits a five-year-old could intuit the "correct" answers to. It doesn't involve agencies better screening their charges for disordered eating (although come to think of it that would be nice), it doesn't involve relying on Body Mass Index (I have never, not for a day in my life, had a BMI in the "normal" range — and my 35" hips mean I'm considered a heifer by certain clients), it doesn't involve open letters and unkept, unkeepable pledges to put "full bodied, healthy and radiant Mediterranean types" on the catwalk. It also doesn't involve taking away anyone's hard-earned mini bottle of champagne.If the fashion industry is to change the image it presents, clients — magazines and designers — will need to stop demanding, preferring, and booking underweight models. Plenty of clients pay lip service to the idea of not promoting an ideal that plenty of models have a hard time living up to (Ali Michaels and her amenorrhea, Coco Rocha and her diuretics). But I have worked at 110 lbs and I've worked at 120 lbs. And when I'm thinner, I just seem to book jobs much more consistently, no matter the city. Clients bite when I happen to look my boniest. Other approaches to the problem have their drawbacks. The reason the BFI abandoned some of the proposals they spent so many months developing was because they felt they would be unenforceable, would fail to achieve the desired affect — and because of the lack of international coordination. The industry has a way of reducing ideas with potential to well-intentioned sop. Madrid's decision to only permit models with BMIs of 18 or over to work? When I worked in Spain, my booker actually told me, "Don't think just because this is Spain you can eat whatever you want and get fat, Tatiana. You need to watch those hips." Milan's vaunted no-more-size-zero-girls solution — that thing they were going to do with having models' BMIs be over 18 and models themselves be over 16? Last time I was in Milan, my model apartment roommate had just turned 15, and the only mention of health was this message, inscribed inside the back cover of my portfolio book:


Wellness and Beauty. Beautiful,bud Healthy above all. Ask a specialist for any diet program, or physical activity you intend to start. For any information, contact Associazione Servizi Moda or you Model Agency.

I never did contact the ASSEM. But I live in hope that the fashion industry will find a way to associate beauty with health with more than just some type on a page. Related:Fashion Capitals End London's Plan To Ban Size Zero [Times of London]




That only works if there is some kind of objective beauty standard. Which there isn't because it has shifted and is different depending on the culture. Or it used to be before western capitalism started convincing everyone that one narrow definition (with a few "acceptable" deviations) is beautiful so they can sell you things.

We are told models look better than everyone else, and so it becomes "true". There's what the cultures deems to be "better" and places value on...which is determined by many, many, many factors. It's not just some inherent truth of beauty.

And, to use your canvas analogy, art both reflects and influences culture. So when you only use one canvas to represent an idea like beauty it's limited. Especially when we're told that we are supposed to look like that. Movie stars tries to emulate those looks, advertisers use those looks to sell products, etc. We are told in all sorts of what that that is the look to have. It's not represented as fantasy or unrealistic for most people, it's represented as desirable and ideal and the definition of beauty. And since we're taught that beauty has a value higher than most other qualities...therein lies the problem.

Look, I'm not suggesting that models are the root of all evil or that they cause all eating disorders or anything like that. But ignoring the influence of fashion is like ignoring the influence of advertising or capitalism. It just doesn't make sense not to see the impact or inherent problems that it does create when it presents limited imagery.

Fashion may be an art form, but it's a functional art form that serves a practical purpose (clothing the body) along with being decorative and involving self-expression. We make fashion choices every day, even if the choice is not to care about it or actively choose to be contrary to it. So how that's represented matters.