During Milan Fashion Week there was one issue which threatened to over-shadow the clothes – the use of apparently underweight models on the runway. Gianfranco Ferré reignited the debate by sending Alana Zimmer down the runway in a form fitting black dress with plunging V neck which clearly revealed not only her jutting collarbones and shoulder blades, but also acted as a peep-hole through which we could view her rib bones. Add to this her sallow cheekbones and gaunt looking face and more than a few eyebrows were raised.
These bans caused controversy in the fashion industry as two camps formed – those who agreed with the use of models of a healthy weight and those who vehemently disagreed with the ban.
Fashion heavyweights Prada, Armani, and Versace all agreed to stop using thinner models almost immediately, but there is still a lot of work to be done even four years on.
Whilst other designers such as Karl Lagerfeld, John Paul Gaultier and Mark Fast have since followed suit there still seems to be bitterness about the issue. When Mark Fast announced that he was using size 12 and 14 models to showcase his clothes for the Autumn/Winter 10/11 show at London Fashion Week last year two of his stylists resigned in disgust. Those in the know suggest that other large fashion houses are ignoring the bans, indirectly putting pressure on smaller designers to do the same in the process.
Part of the problem is that there is a feeling in the fashion industry that the runway is to showcase the clothes, not the models. By using thinner models the idea is that the fabric and design are not distorted, allowing the clothes to look as close to the designer’s original idea as possible. The argument is that if the clothes could be showcased without the models being there at all then this would be the ideal. As it is, the closest they can get to this is by using painfully thin models.
Alana Zimmer lists her measurements as being 31-23-34 with a height of 5’11”. This suggests that her BMI is lower than that proposed by the ban.
Regardless of whether she meets the minimum weight required, you have to wonder why Gianfranco Ferré chose to put such a visibly thin model on the runway in this city in particular.
This week it was announced that a government initiative will see children as young as 10 being taught about healthy body image in the classroom by being shown images of airbrushing before and after shots. This is in order to help children understand that the ‘perfect’ bodies that they aspire to aren’t actually as they look in the pictures. The fashion industry has long been blamed for promoting an ideal body type that is unattainable for most, which in turn leads to feelings of inadequacy and low self esteem. This new initiative aims to curb that.
Personally, I would like to see bigger models on the runway. Yes, designers need to showcase their clothes however, they also answer to the sales executives. If consumers don’t buy the product then the designer won’t be able to continue designing for the house. Sending a painfully thin model down the runway will only make me question whether those clothes are suitable for me, with the result often being a resounding ‘no’ based only on the fact that I am now comparing my body shape to that of a model’s. Real women on the runway however, allow me to see a design in its finished state – on the customer. This would make me much more likely to buy it.
But what do you think? I’d love to hear your views on this on our Facebook page or by sending us a Tweet. Should thin models be banned once and for all?