Tuesday, June 10, 2008

CFDA Health Initiative Discussion: "We've Been Drinking the Kool-Aid"

I attended a CFDA Health Initiative discussion last night focusing on "The Beauty of Health: How the Fashion Industry Can Make a Difference." [Usually this is a team effort, but Magali is on vacation with her family. She was sorry to miss it.] This was the third health initiative event they've hosted since releasing their guidelines in 2007.

Some highlights:

Nian Fish
of KCD (whose Q & A was our very first blog post almost a year ago) is sick of the ultra-thin look. "Size zero. What is that?" she asked the audience, which included Anna Wintour and Donna Karan. "A size zero means you're invisible. I think we have brainwashed ourselves into believing that is beautiful. It's time to admit that we've all been drinking the Kool-Aid."

James Scully
has been an outspoken advocate for reform in fashion, so I was happy to see him step up to the microphone. As one of the most sought-after casting agents in the industry, he knows that he and his colleagues have a responsibility to understand the power of their words and the tremendous influence they can have in young models' lives. "Magali talks about how her life would have taken a different turn if she had received caring support instead of harsh words about her weight," he said. "I think about that every day. Let's stop treating models like greyhounds we plan to shoot after a race. We have to remember we are dealing with real people who have real feelings."

Michael Kors
also reminded everyone to treat models as humans, not mannequins. He challenged designers to "stay away from child-size clothes unless you're designing for children,"
pointing out that fashion influences the Hollywood aesthetic--and when celebrities starve themselves to fit into sample sizes, it has a dangerous and far-reaching influence on girls and women everywhere.

Model Coco Rocha did not hold back. She said that a day in the life of most models involves an obsession with staying thin, a constant hunger, and cutting remarks like "We don't want you to be anorexic. We just want you to look like you are." She admitted that an agent once advised her to throw up after meals. Last year she gave in to the pressure and took diuretics--a decision she seriously regrets. After consulting other models, she offered four recommendations:
1. To designers: make your fit models bigger (i.e. make your clothes bigger). When zippers don't zip up at castings, models suffer unbearable humiliation.
2. Keep working to raise awareness about the long-term effects of eating disordered behavior. If young models knew the permanent damage they were causing to their bodies, they might think twice.
3. Agencies need to be closely linked with medical professionals, including nutritionists and eating disorder specialists.
4. Provide healthier food at shows.

I left the discussion with a hopeful outlook. Go ahead, call me the eternal optimist. Magali and I have been working to raise awareness about eating disorders and body image issues in the fashion industry since 1999. For many, it might seem as though change is happening at a snail's pace. But in the span of our work together, the last two years have felt like giant leaps forward. More and more people are finally speaking the truth. We need that kind of honesty. We can't get to a healthier place without it.


Ashe Mischief said...

This is very optimistic to read, and I thank you for posting this.

As a plus sized gal, I know I genuinely appreciate designers like Michael Kors (along with Paige Premium Denim, Calvin Klein, etc.), who at least make SOME of their clothes accessible to the average and above average sized woman. It's distressing and disappointing to see designers who create clothes for a size 4 and under-- that's such a marginal part of the female population-- why not make beautiful clothes available to all beautiful women?

Liz said...

It would also be really nice if everything wasn't designed for rail-thin women who are 6 feet tall. I'm short and somewhat rounded and would like for there to be models who are short or even average height.

candeelady-My Tween Blog said...

I hope these comments are not just lip service to be politically correct with no actions to back them up. Have you seen that happen or do you "believe" these people?

Milla said...

Hey Claire and Magali...
This is Milla...
Well, I think the problem with unrealistic body images in fashion starts even in the fashion schools.
I tell you because I attend one.
For fashion sketching the teacher would force us to draw a standard fashion figure ( 10 heads tall vs "regular" human figure which is 7) and only thin figures. Extremely thin under penalty of lower grades.
How does that help me as a designer?
I am a PLUS SIZE designer!!!!
Why do I need to draw thin figures which then does not give me a fair idea of what the clothes I am designing are going to look on plu size women.
Now, we have 1 size 18 ( retail 14) dress form FOR THE ENTIRE department. There are at least 15 of us who need plus size forms for draping, tailoring and pattern making.
They bought new ones, all tiny.
And ALL the models used for the student show were size 0-4 with 1 size 10.
It drives me CRAZY!!!!
My sketching teacher told us when people were drawing juicier figures:"Size 18 is NOT fashion!!!"
I had no idea that fashion was a certain size.
It made me feel like dirt because I am a size 18 and that is what my samples are too.