Catwalk of the Damned

Discussion
Mar 03, 2008

By George Anderson

Ghostly complexions, sunken cheeks, hollow eyes, skeletal limbs and torsos were on public display in Paris last week as the city’s top fashion houses proved that anything said previously in that city about keeping unhealthy-looking models off the catwalk was just “foutiase” (Editor’s note: We think that suffices for baloney in French).

London, Madrid, Mumbai, Glasgow and other locations have put rules in place to keep excessively skinny models off catwalks, but in Paris, New York and Milan, the cadaverous look is still in.

“In Paris and New York they expect you to be thin like this,” Anett, a model who held up her pinky, told The Guardian.

“And in Milan,” said another model identified as Caroline, “people pat your tummy and say, ‘Are you having a baby’?”

“In Paris – oh my God! They’re so hardcore about how skinny they want the girls to be – they want 33 inch hips and a 22 inch waist,” Carole White, founder of Premier Model Management in London told The Daily Mail. “I know of two 13-year-olds who were in shows in Milan, big shows, last year.”

Bans of size zero models began back in 2006 when a model from Uruguay, Luisel Ramos, died during a fashion show after having gone days without eating. Ms. Ramos’ sister, also a model, died due to complications from anorexia.

Discussion Questions: Do you see a problem with designers continuing to use unnaturally thin models to promote the next season’s fashion? Should models be required to meet a minimum body mass index (BMI) to be allowed to walk down a catwalk or appear in ads and commercials? If you believe the use of “size zero” models is wrong, who has the responsibility to bring the practice to an end?

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13 Comments on "Catwalk of the Damned"


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Ken Yee
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Ken Yee
14 years 2 months ago

The problem of extremely thin models would go away if women (and men) didn’t want to be models. Everyone knows those catwalk models are too thin, but if someone really wants the job, and the fame and money that goes with it, then there’s nobody to blame except the job seeker.

It’s no different then the endless number of athletes who pour their lifestyle into athletics, when probably 1 out of every 10,000 of them will actually make it pro and earn millions of dollars. It’s a high risk, but high reward industry.

What I find interesting is that those catwalk models to me are not very good looking at all. Not only bone thin with zero curves, but ghostly looking, lacking emotion, likely drugged up (or at least look like it), very ghoulish as if they just arose from the dead. They remind me of tall thin men.

However, the “model look” must be working if every designer showcases their wares using them!

Jerry Tutunjian
Guest
Jerry Tutunjian
14 years 2 months ago

The Living Dead called fashion models have forever been a pet peeve of mine. They look unhealthy, asexual, unerotic, melancholic–if not clinically depressed. Their diet of water, cigarettes and drugs are no secret, and neither the results of such “nutritional” intake. But no matter the protests, the fashion mafia will continue to promote these walking cadavers.

By the way, why are they called clothes horses? Perhaps they look as healthy as Don Quixote’s ancient horse.

David Livingston
Guest
14 years 2 months ago

Absolutely not! We don’t need any body mass index tests. These women made a choice to go into this business and if they are passionate about being successful then they will do what needs to be done, even if it is harmful.

Men have dangerous jobs too, which require extreme low weight situations. Thoroughbred racing jockeys are basically out of work if they get over 115 pounds. Do you know how hard it is for a grown man to stay under 115 pounds? I don’t see any outcry to increase the weight limits for jockeys. These brave athletes must not only be severely underweight but they must be in top physical condition.

Models have it much easier. They don’t need muscles and they don’t have to control a 2000 pound animal at the same time.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
14 years 2 months ago

Too-skinny models have been the norm since the Heroin Chic look of 1997. Readers of fashion magazines have learned to take the super-extremes with a grain of salt; they know that no “real women” look that severely thin.

The business opportunity that is being lost is the significant market of plus-sized women who want to look fashionable. Now that the average American woman wears a size 14, you’d think that the fashion houses would welcome an opportunity to create fashions that the majority of women can desire, and buy. Some day, fashion houses will have a d’oh! moment.

Kenneth A. Grady
Guest
Kenneth A. Grady
14 years 2 months ago

While the number of bad things that can be said about the super-skinny fashion models keeps growing, perhaps one of the more interesting questions is how this really helps those who ultimately want to drive volume in the large American market?

The healthy look, increase in the number of plus-size Americans and a number of other factors conspire to make this approach questionable. It is, however, another great example of the disconnect between marketing forces and the consumer world.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
14 years 2 months ago

I have never looked at runway models as a normal indicator of proper body shape. That said, fashion houses and retailers do have a moral obligation to maintain images of normal looking people because of the influence they exert on the shopping public. I mean the basic question that lies with parents is, do we want our daughters looking like these ‘creatures’ who are telling us what to buy? I say that ‘they’ have an obligation. Do I trust them to fulfill that obligation? Of course not. So it really is up to me as a parent to talk to my girls and convey what’s normal and what isn’t. These images are not only from fashion shows. They exist everywhere from Wal-Mart to Bratz cartoons. It’s good measure to teach the young ones to appreciate themselves and who they are. The one Oreo and a cigarette breakfast is a no no at our house!

Max Goldberg
Guest
14 years 2 months ago

The super-thin look in Paris, New York and Milan seems at odds with the current advertising trend in the US of using “real-looking” people in ads. Maybe the few that can afford the haute couture will pay small fortunes for the designer dresses and to look like the models.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
14 years 2 months ago

It is horrible that some young women who decide to choose the high fashion model career path are so unhealthy and sometimes die because of it. At the same time it is unclear how much the freakish body types and bizarre clothing shown on the elite runways truly impact the majority of normal women out in the world who are vastly different (larger) body types, wear normal clothing, and shop at regular stores ranging from Nordstrom to Forever 21. It IS a disconnect. But regulation? I don’t think so. The super skinny Hollywood actresses pictured in People magazine and InStyle should be of greater concern as role models (and perhaps mocked), but they can’t be regulated either.

Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
14 years 2 months ago
I think there are two very different issues here, one is a labor issue and one is a retail marketing issue. As a labor issue, the requirements placed on runway models are not all that different than the unsafe working conditions fought by unions in many different industries over the last century or more. If these women were starving themselves to keep their jobs shimmy-ing up the smokestacks of some industrial complex, the departments of labor in every country would be all over their employers. As a retailer issue, it’s not so straightforward. These models are generally not modeling clothing that will ever appear on the rack. Like concept cars, the creations they wear are artistic expressions that suggest the latest trends in fashion that designers may be using in their off-the-rack lines. They showcase hemlines and shoulders, materials and looks that will show up in the coming year. They are not meant to look “real.” The audiences they appear in front of are not impressionable girls or body-dysmorphic men and women. They are also… Read more »
Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
14 years 2 months ago
I personally think these models look horrible and the furthest thing from aspirational or sexy. However, we have to remember that the haute couture fashion shows are focused on a worldwide audience. It is naïve to assume that the designers are hoping their Milan or New York show will inspire everyday U.S. shoppers. Theirs is a make-believe world where their aim is to express their art in ever-unique venues and methods. The edgy look of these models is just one the tools they use. I too want to see these models better treated and to have a healthier look on the runways. I agree with requiring a minimum BMI for all models–it is the only way to start moving the designers to an understanding that what they are doing for their art is damaging to the models and to the fashion business in the long run. London, Mumbai and Madrid have BMI standards in place. Paris, New York, and Milan need to join them and put the “heroin-chic” look to rest for good.
Dick Seesel
Guest
14 years 2 months ago

Designers wonder why they are struggling more and more to “ring the register” in stores that carry their goods. An enlightened minority seem to be interested in designing clothes that most customers can actually wear. Whether this mindset will extend to the types of models employed remains to be seen…especially now that the starving, androgynous look is spreading to male runway models as well.

Mark Burr
Guest
14 years 2 months ago
Size matters? Really? A simple walk through any major mall in the US or for that matter any supermarket, would instantly convince otherwise. Most men or women (and I do believe it’s not an exaggeration to say “most”) never aspire to size 0 for women or the incredible abs of men depicted by the fashion industry. The case being otherwise, gyms would be busting at the seams and rice cakes would be the highest volume item in the supermarket. There are certainly a tremendous amount of things that I worry about with my college-aged daughter. However, the dress size of a Paris model is not one of them. Sadly I worry most about her safety and that has little to do with the size of jeans that she wears or the food she consumes. Regulating anything like this is a misdirection of positive energy and certainly a waste of serious brain power in comparison to the wealth of other issues. Most should be worried about how we can guide a generation into having a positive… Read more »
Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 2 months ago

Most couture lines aren’t profitable. The couture lines are presented to popularize the ready-to-wear and accessories (including fragrances) with the same brand names. Couture is a publicity engine, not a direct sales engine. Couture is a fantasy presented to an audience that loves to fantasize. Couture’s appeal to young women is similar to costumed super-hero appeal to 9 year old boys. Nine year old boys know they aren’t Superman but they fantasize and they wear a superhero cape during Halloween.

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