Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"Health Matters: Weight and Wellness in the World of Fashion"

L to R: Natalia Vodianova, Michael Kors, Anna Wintour, Dr. David Herzog at Harvard Business School [I managed to snap this grainy photo before the call for no photography - sorry Dr. Herzog!]

I know I ignored the blog yesterday; I was busy getting my (paying) work done so I could make it to the Harris Center for Education and Advocacy in Eating Disorders' Annual Public Forum last night. This year's event, "Health Matters: Weight and Wellness in the World of Fashion," explored the CFDA's health initiative with panelists Anna Wintour, Michael Kors and Natalia Vodianova.

You may remember that I was super excited to meet the panelists. Well, turns out I couldn't make it to the reception (don't want to talk about it - too dissapointing!), but I was front and center for the panel discussion.

The conversation managed to avoid accusations and defensiveness, which pleasantly surprised me. The fashion industry has clearly been put through the ringer in the past when it comes to eating disorders, and the panelists were well prepared. Their answers may have been recycled and reused, but their dedication to promoting health in the fashion industry seemed genuine. 

Michael Kors even took a vow to never again book models under the age of 16. Age, in fact, was a big topic of the evening, and deservedly so. After all, how can models at 17 or 18 be expected to maintain the curveless figure of a 13-year-old? And how can child models, arriving in New York alone and speaking little to no English, be expected to put up with the scrutiny of the fashion industry as their bodies begin to change?

Wintour discussed the challenge editors have of choosing healthy-looking models when many designers are sending them sample size zeros that come off the runway, and Vodianova spoke of her own struggles with weight, admitting that she had a problem after giving birth to her children.

My favorite comments, though, came from Kors, who described the cyclical nature of fashion. Designers seemed to have tired of the big-personality models of the 80s and early 90s, he said, and began hiring girls that were "blank" canvases to better showcase their collections: smaller personalities, smaller hanger-like bodies.

The fall 2010 shows, though, are signaling a return to big personalities and healthier figures. The Prada show and the use of models like Lara Stone, Doutzen Kroes and even Elle McPherson are perfect examples. Of course, there are still plenty of skeletal teenagers on the runways, but the tide seems to be turning. Hopefully, the CFDA can make it stick this time.

Doutzen Kroes for Prada fall 2010 [via Style.com]



  1. The personality issue is a good point. Plus size models rely heavily on their faces and stand out more, and I can see how designers would favor "blank" models over a Tyra or Cindy who essentially steal the show over the clothing.

    I wish there was more emphasis on HEALTHY models and not just on models not being too thin. The way society seems to be demanding a revolt towards "average" (overweight) models is just as scary to me as a too-low BMI.

  2. I loved all the models from the 80's and 90's, with big presence and healthy bodies. I am always hearing designers talk about their "strong" woman they design for, who wear the clothes and not the other way around. They want woman to identify with the wearer. Its about the woman behind the dress, their ideal female/customer. Designers preach this at every show. Isn't it what they always wanted?

    I guess thats why the demand of very thin models just to be a canvas has always confused me. I thought that healthy with personality was a good thing.