The fashion industry is an aspirational glamorous business, but the skinny models that strut the runways and grace the pages of our magazines are far from glam; they are emaciated and ill.
The debate about skinniness in the fashion industry is nothing new. For years camps have been at war as to whether or not these ultra thin models should be allowed to represent the industry. But of late the voice of protest has been ever more present. Whether it is Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson calling for airbrushing to be banned in advertising or Vogue Italy’s Franca Sozzani stating that “the current inclination to embrace a female beauty standard that exalts thinness has devastating consequences on many adolescents’ eating habits” it seems we are now taking this ‘thin is in’ craze a little more seriously.
Vogue magazine, perhaps the world’s top arbiter of style, really turned head when the 19 editors came together to make a pact to only project a healthy body image in their magazines from now on. And they are not alone, Elite Model Management are the next industry pros to step up and make a change. The model agency has backed the campaign, started by Vogue, to promote healthier views of body image among children. They spoke out saying they won’t knowingly use any models that are under the age of 16 or that looked like they could be suffering from an eating disorder.
But will these nods in the right direction really make us change course?
Israeli has taken to banning thin models once and for all. Models who wish to work professionally must have a body mass index of 18.5 or higher, or at least not look underweight. The new law passed in Israeli also requires fashion magazines to disclose when images have been manipulated to make the models look thinner.
However, there are so many things that contribute to eating disorders — certain genes, the environment in which we live and the stresses of daily life. Can we really expect that banning skinny models in Israel and Vogue promising to promote a healthier body image, will eradicate eating disorders amongst adolescents?
While these are all moves in the right direction, I can’t help but feel we as a nation must step up too. For too long we have put skinny models and celebrities up on pedestals. We have caved to fad diets and bought into the photoshoped images that we are exposed to by the media. If we stop buying into the skinny craze we can save younger generations from falling into unhealthy and life threatening eating habits. So perhaps it falls to our hands, more so than those of the industry, to make the change.