Sunday, January 07, 2007

CFDA "Cop-out" Over Thin Model Controversy

Diane Von Furstenberg, facing her first major issue since assuming the role as the new president of the CFDA issued the following statement regarding the "too thin model controversy": "It is important as a fashion industry to show our interest and see what we can do because we are in the business of image...But I feel like we should promote health as a part of beauty rather than setting rules."

So, after a meeting with industry leaders that included Anna Wintour and several members of her staff (what happened to representatives of other major fashion publications?), health professionals including a nutritionist, psychiatrist, physical trainer, model agency booker and a representative from the pr firm KCD, the best this group could come up were some non-binding "guidelines" for designers that included providing more nutritious food backstage at fashion shows, scheduling fittings earlier in the day for young models, and encouraging them to get more sleep?

The CFDA recommendations fell far short of Madrid's banning models who have a body mass index of less than 18 and the recent "manifesto" by the Italian Chamber of Fashion that proposed models should hold a license issued by a panel of health experts and city officials attesting that they are in good health. And Didier Grumbach, president of the Chambre syndicale de la haute couture, has indicated that he plans no action regarding regulating the weight of models.

Perhaps the best way to approach the issue is to take the decision away from the designers who have neither the training or time to enforce standards and put it in the hands of the doctors? Why not require all models to have a recent certificate (say no more than a month before NY shows) from a doctor stating that he or she is in good health? Certainly most designers, the CFDA and even 7th on Sixth could mutually agree to enforce this minimum requirement?

-Ernest Schmatolla

(For more on the "too thin model" controversy, check out Eric Wilson's article section C page 2 in today's The New York Times)

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

What’s ‘Eating’ You?


Harper's Bazaar January 2007 Issue - “Highlights from Milan” photographed by Daniel Jackson

Is it just me, or are we all collectively obsessed with food, diets, eating, body image, and body weight? We ended the year dishing (sorry about the pun) about unhealthy and unnatural skinniness, debating the issue of what constitutes ‘too thin’ (vis-à-vis models and the fashion industry), talking about eating disorders, diets, exercise regimens, losing weight, gaining weight, sharing festive recipes, reading about food, planning our menus, thinking about our next meal, and contemplating what restaurants to visit.

And here we are, just several days into the New Year, and it continues. Many of us have made resolutions to lose weight, tone up, get into better shape, and of course, eat healthy. The cover of New York Magazine boasts “Adam Platt’s Where To Eat: The Best Restaurants in Town”. But it seems some of us are not eating but starving,‘dying’ to be thin, and as a whole, we are generally as obsessed with what we eat as what we don’t eat. Which is not a good thing. Not only from an appearance standpoint but in terms of health, it can be downright dangerous. The headline of AM New York on January 2 was “Rail Thin” (“Women on crash diets fainting are a top cause of subway delays, MTA staffers say”), an alarming statistic that was also confirmed by an article that ran in The New York Post on Wednesday, January 3.


Harper's Bazaar January 2007 Issue - “Highlights from Milan” photographed by Daniel Jackson

In Bernadine Morris’s interview with James Galanos for the Look On-Line (“A Conversation with James Galanos”), she asked him about the current controversy today regarding whether models are too thin: “Mr. Galanos says he always liked thin models. Pat, his fitting model, was very thin and there was a problem getting other models who could fit into her clothes. The problem today, he believes, is that designers use models who are too young and who have not reached their maximum development. He certainly doesn't believe models should starve themselves, and that gangly legs can look terrible in clothes.” Indeed, but there are plenty of gangly arms and legs out there…on the Red Carpet, on the street, on the runways and staring up at you from editorials in magazines.

This brings up another point. I have always felt that to a certain degree, what constitutes as “too thin” can often be subjective, a matter of taste, and an aesthetic call. (I happen to be very thin so what I consider to be too thin may differ from someone else’s point of view). That said, the January issue of Harper’s Bazaar magnified the reality that in some cases, it is not subjective, but in-your-face obvious.


Harper's Bazaar January 2007 Issue - “Highlights from Milan” photographed by Daniel Jackson

Perhaps because the issue of unhealthy and unnatural thinness has been so much on all our minds, with the fashion world trying to regulate and uphold certain universal standards for models which must be met, I was immediately struck by images of a young model, who appeared throughout the portfolio “Highlights from Milan”, photographed by Daniel Jackson. While on some of the pages, clad in voluminous layers or covered up designs, she just looked ‘normally’ skinny (well, normal in terms of fashion models), in the images where her body was exposed (three shots in particular), she appeared to be shockingly emaciated. She was literally skin and bones, with rail thin arms and legs, and protruding collarbone. And, when you factor in that the camera adds at least 5 pounds, you may be unable to put your finger on something or know exactly what "IT" is until you see it -- these photos exemplified "IT". Indeed, a picture is worth a thousand words.

- Marilyn Kirschner

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