There’s a been a lot of talk recently about too-thin models. In May last year British Vogue unveiled a new health initiative promising to not “knowingly” work with models who have eating disorders and to “encourage designers to consider the consequences” of teeny sample sizes. It was similar to the one the CFDA implemented in 2007, in response to the overwhelming concern models who are unhealthily thin.
But admitting it’s a problem doesn’t make the problem go away, particularly when loopholes obviously abound.
Recently H&M conceded that their models have been too thin (and we’re talking in recent seasons, not in the ‘heroin chic’ nineties), and in a speech at Harvard University last year, Vogue Italia’s Franca Sozzani admitted the fashion industry promotes anorexia. Just this year we let out a collective WTF at the shocking news that model scouts in Stockholm were lurking outside the country’s largest eating disorder clinic in search of fresh talent, pushing business cards on wheelchair-bound patients.
But one fashion designer thinks we’re A-okay, over the heroin chic hurdle and “past [too-skinny models] being a problem.” In a conversation with HuffPost Style about fashion, shopping and his role on “Project Runway All Stars,” Isaac Mizrahi took a perhaps overly optimistic view on runway size diversity:
“I don’t notice girls anymore in the majority who are sickly-looking. Even if they’re tall and thin now, they look healthier to me. Not fat, not fatter, but they just look healthier. I mean this — there was a moment when there was this whole heroin chic thing and it just looked terrible. It just looked terrible! And now everyone points at it and goes, ‘Oh dear, that’s terrible.’
And the girls are encouraged to be thin, but I don’t think they’re encouraged to look like drug addicts anymore. I mean, I’m sure there are some designers who like the girls to look like drug addicts, but not on the whole the way it was for a good 10 years — like, in the middle of the ’90s to around 2002 or so. There was that thing going on, and it was sickening, absolutely sickening. I don’t think it exists anymore.”
While we commend his optimism, there’s danger in assuming we’re over the hurdle. Mizrahi could be considered an industry elder, but while this gives him every right to offer up his expertise, it also means he’s conditioned to seeing skinny models every day. Even for people who’s job it is (i.e. ours) to scrutinize models every day, it’s often startling how thin models appear in real life as opposed to on paper. And for people who aren’t accustomed to seeing these bodies on a regular basis, it’s often frightening.
Take Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, which Huffington Post uses as an example of the industry now favoring “tanner, fitter, more toned models.” Sure the girls have boobs, abs and tans, but they also frequently cut out solid foods (and often even water) in the lead up to the show. Friends I’ve watched the show with in the past (oi, don’t judge) can’t make it through one dominatrix harness and a frontless diamanté shirt without being distracted by a protruding collarbone.
The industry is certainly improving, and we’re all for thinking positively. We just don’t think the modeling industry’s size issue is something to be put on the ‘done and dealt with’ pile just yet — and it’s a problem to assume that it is.