You and I aren’t the only ones wondering why “high fashion” fetishizes the gamine, undernourished look of 14-year-old girls fresh OTB from Belarus: recently, two insiders from the heart of the industry itself have vocalized their distaste for the fashion world’s embrace of the skeletal-thin female form. British designer Giles Deacon, who is the creative director of Emanuel Ungaro, and model Erin O’Connor (left, in 2009) are both chiming in with “high fashion” critics like plus-sized model Crystal Renn to say, Enough is enough already.Giles Deacon said the unrealistic beauty standards set by the fashion world are “a bit wrong,” when the topics was broached by the Telegraph newspaper:
“I’ve seen it in certain studios I’ve worked in and I’ve never liked it as a way of working or being with people. At a certain period in time, the fashion industry was portraying this image of a totally unrealistic woman, women who are not allowed to be themselves. It’s just all a bit wrong.”
He blames designers for perpetuating the status quo. “I think [designers] were probably scared, if truth came out, that if they put someone who wasn’t ‘right’ on the runway or in an ad campaign, that it would be a failure, that women wouldn’t want it,” Deacon said. “Which clearly isn’t the case,”
But I really give more credit to the model Erin O’Connor, who risks alienating potential employers in her field for speaking out about what she sees as wrong. “I’m a fashion model and I don’t fit into the sample sizes. I haven’t for some time,” O’Connor told the Guardian. “At one show I couldn’t get into the trousers. The designer said, ‘What happened to you?’ I replied, ‘Why don’t you make your trousers bigger?’” The reality is that the majority of models are ages 16 to 19, she added, and “as an industry we have to take responsibility for them.” The problem might be, she continued, that “fashion is built on perpetuating fantasy.” Yet that fantasy has become a “uniformity” in appearance. “We have forgotten how to be individuals,” O’Connor claimed.
That’s not just mumbo-jumbo out of the mouth of one model. I’ve heard plus-sized model Crystal Renn — the most famous plus-sized model in the world right now — voice the same complaints with my own ears. When I interviewed Crystal last year about Hungry, her memoir of battling anorexia and exercise bulimia, she had a bunch of different suggestions for how fashion could improve the image of ideal womanhood that it projects. Crystal said:
I would like to see a variety of women on the runway. I was actually just having this conversation last night: If you see 20 girls on the runway and they’re all size 0s and six feet, it really hits you in the face how thin they are. But now if you have a few of those thin girls, three or four, and you throw in size 8, you add size 6, you add size 14—the power of that message [that thin is the ideal] is now lessened. I think it would be such an amazing message to say all women are beautiful.
She also said she thinks designers’ sample sizes (what models show on the runway) should be made in a size 10, instead of a size 0 or 2, so all sizes of models could walk the runways. “The excuse of the sample sizes is always there: ‘Oh, but the sample sizes! We can’t have bigger girls because of the sample size!’” Crystal said. “Well, then let’s take the pressure off! Maybe that’s the regulation: sample sizes have to be a size 10 and see what happens.”
Of course, the f**ked-up body image idealized by mainstream society has many prongs. Airbrushing is also a problem. The very notion of “plus-size” and “straight-size” models is a problem, too. However, this is the time of year — Fashion Week — when the chorus of “When is the fashion industry going to portray a more realistic body image reflecting the majority of healthy, adult women?” starts to sing the loudest. It will die down, only to pick up again next season. But my hope is maybe one year soon, this chorus won’t need to be sung anymore because things will have finally changed.