Fashionova blog: Are real-sized girls wanted on runways?
The age-old body image and fashion debate raged in Melbourne this week, with one model manager claiming no-one wants real-sized girls on runways.
The controversial comments came at the Fashion That Fits forum for media and industry, hosted by the L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival (LMFF) to consider how fashion makes us feel about our bodies.
Generally that feeling can be awful. Women of all shapes, ages, fitness levels and confidence know what it’s like to open a fashion mag and wish they were more like the models they see on the pages. Most people recognize these models have been styled, blow-dried and photoshopped to create an image of perfection. But there is usually one part we’re envious of that can impact the way we feel about ourselves.
And the stats back it up. In fact, a recent Victorian government survey found the level of body dissatisfaction among young people is alarmingly high. Eating Disorders Victoria claims a massive 20 per cent, or one in five women, feel negatively about their body. And that stat increases in fashion, where the pressure to be thin is unbelievable.
The worst example of 'fashion kills' is the two sisters, both models, who quite literally starved themselves to death on the runways. Luisel Ramos, a 22-year-old model from Uruguay, died of heart failure during an outfit change in a 2006 fashion show after starving herself in the lead up. Only months after, her 18-year-old also sister died, suffering a heart attack. Their deaths led to the ban on size zero models being cast in shows for Madrid Fashion Week that year.
The sad fact is, young girls with anorexia are dying every week in Victoria alone. It’s not just models who succumb to this pressure.
So, the big question is – where does the responsibility for body image lie?
Cleo editor Sarah Oakes explained to forum attendees how the magazine constantly aims to promote healthy images through its stories and fashion spreads. You’ll never read about crash diets, or see models that’ve been photoshopped within an inch of their life. Still though, a magazine is a business, and as such, operates under commercial expectations. You’re more likely to see Scarlett Johannsen on the cover than a stunning size 14 Australian model, she explained - for the simple reason that that’s what sells.
But the comments from Chadwick Model Management director Matthew Anderson sparked the most controversy. He argued people don’t want to see average on a runway.
“We don’t go to the Grand Prix to see average drivers, or the Olympics to watch average athletes swim,” he said.
Anderson argued the fashion industry is supposed to be part fantasy and inspiration, and asked exactly what is wrong with admiring something for its beauty on a runway.
This, I suppose, is where the difficulty lies. Why does slim necessarily equal beautiful? How did we get to a place where the ideal is something most people aren’t able to achieve? And how do we change society’s perceptions about it?
Obviously, there’s no silver bullet here, and a lot of it involves education starting at a young age, for both guys and girls. It is, however, great to see LMFF taking initiative on this, and being proactive in seeking out the solutions, rather than sitting back, accepting and perpetuating negative body images from year to year.
So, what do you think? How does looking at models on a runway or in a magazine make you feel? And would seeing more ‘average’ girls in the media help to improve your own personal body image? Got any other tips for the fashion industry to consider?