Fashion world round-up.

// 14 October 2009

The October issue of French Vogue, billed as a ‘Top Models Special’ features a blacked-up a white model in “ethnic” clothing and no black models:

“It’s horrible, there’s nothing else to describe it,” says Nana A Tamakloe, founder of Confidence Model Management, which has a diverse range of models on its books. “The image says we’d rather turn a European model white than hire a black model.”

There’s been no response from the magazine.

Germany’s most popular women’s magazine, Brigitte, has banned professional models from its pages and will feature only ‘real life’ women with their own identities – from footballers to musicians – from now on:

“From 2010 we will not work with professional models any more,” said Andreas Lebert, editor-in-chief, adding that he was “fed up” with having to retouch pictures of underweight models who bore no resemblance to ordinary women.

“For years we’ve had to use Photoshop to fatten the girls up,” he said. “Especially their thighs, and decolletage. But this is disturbing and perverse and what has it got to do with our real reader?”

He said the move was a response to complaints by readers who said they had no connection with the women depicted in fashion features and “no longer wanted to see protruding bones”.

“Today’s models weigh around 23% less than normal women,” Lebert said. “The whole model industry is anorexic.”

Sounds like a positive initiative within the obviously problematic context of focusing on women’s bodies, but I think it should be remembered that models are ‘real life’ women too. Pushing the idea that ‘real women have curves / don’t look like that’ is just another form of judgemental body fascism.

Designer Karl Lagerfeld has responded by claiming that people prefer to look at skinny women and those who complain about the size zero trend are just jealous chubbies:

“These are fat mummies sitting with their bags of crisps in front of the television, saying that thin models are ugly,” Lagerfeld said in an interview with Focus magazine. The creative director of the fashion house Chanel added that the world of fashion was all to do “with dreams and illusions, and no one wants to see round women”.

Lagerfeld seems so absorbed in this poisonous world that he’s become completely removed from reality. With the pressure to be curvy and sexy on one side – thanks to the ‘real women have curves’ and lads’ mags brigades – and to diet ourselves into skinny oblivion on the other, women just can’t win.

Comments From You

earwicga // Posted 14 October 2009 at 12:27 pm

I did have to laugh heartily at Lagerfield – so far removed from reality!! Not at French Vogue though – pretty foul.

Best thing to do is get rid of scales – it wasn’t until I saw my children (boys) keep getting on the bathroom scales and weighing themselves and comparing their weights that I really saw what an odious appliance they really are. They were copying me and made me think hard about my weighing behaviour i.e. every day, and moving the scales round the bathroom to get different weights. The bathroom scales were disposed of at that point – which felt like a big win for me.

sianmarie // Posted 14 October 2009 at 1:23 pm

i was really annoyed by the comments on the lagerfield article from men going “don’t worry girls! men like women round not skinny”

as if this will solve the problem! it was obviously too much for these men to comprehend that women’s sole purpose and women’s body image is not to create a body that is lovely to male eyes. i get so frustrated when people say that “well, men don’t like skinny women” because on the one hand, i know it comes from a good place, and on the other hand it is so sexist! it is saying that women’s bodies are still the object of a male gaze, that women’s bodies should meet male approval and that women shouldn’t be happy with their bodies for their own good reasons, but because men say it’s ok. and what about skinny women? what about women without curves! some of the comments even say the image of the model used to illustrate the piece “didn’t look like much fun” as if skinny or slender women are no fun ergo no good in bed.

women love your bodies because they are your own bodies! not because you have male permission!

Shea // Posted 14 October 2009 at 2:27 pm

I think that the comments from Lagerfeld reveal the misogyny at the heart of the whole fashion business. It is an industry built on exploiting the guilt and insecurities of women the world over. The “fat mummies” bit really reveals a hatred of women and women’s bodies (as functional entities) that is common from a lot of gay men (not all) especially in fashion. What on earth can gay men teach us about women’s bodies?!?!!!!

It isn’t “dreams and illusions” that fashion is built on, it is a stylised, impractical vision of women (predominantly white, as the French Vogue shows us and very thin). It is a denial of women as real human beings, with functional healthy bodies. At the other end of the scale we have the lad’s mag brigade, which is just as narrow, a version of women – that of existing only to give pleasure either visually (i.e the “curves”) or sexually.

Both are narrow, myopic, limiting views of womanhood & womankind. They both deny women agency, autonomy and the joy of embracing their bodies.

I think the whole fashion world is a crock to be honest. I remembering reading an article in the New Statesman recently about the fashion industry and how this rise of fashion had gone un-challenged by feminists. It really started me thinking. This is a billion pound business but on the idea that women should “love” fashion and celebrate having a Marc Jacobs bag. Now I love clothes as much as the next person, but when did they become so defining, and so central to the idea of what a woman should be?

Laura // Posted 14 October 2009 at 2:59 pm

Shea,

I think it’s unfair and untrue to say that many gay men hate women and women’s bodies; it’s not an issue of (some) male fashion designers sexuality but of misogyny in general.

I agree with your implication that women should perhaps stop embracing the fashion industry quite so whole-heartedly. Personally, I’ve felt much more comfortable with myself and my body since I removed pretty much all contact with the fashion and beauty industry.

Hannah // Posted 14 October 2009 at 4:06 pm

I totally agree, sianmarie. Whenever this debate comes up in television shows, in magazines and in newspapers the ‘positive’ message offered is always ‘Don’t worry girls, men like curves!’ as if what men like is the only thing which should matter to us as women and should dictate how we feel about ourselves. Obviously this offers no solution and is just as offensive.

JenniferRuth // Posted 14 October 2009 at 4:28 pm

In other fashion news, designer Christian Louboutin thinks Barbie’s ankles are too fat for his shoes.

http://www.mediabistro.com/fishbowlLA/our_town/barbie_has_cankles_140060.asp

You couldn’t make it up!

Kristel // Posted 14 October 2009 at 6:21 pm

Laura, Shea is right when she says many (not all, of course) gay men hate women’s bodies. That is a fact. And no, women can’t win. That’s why I’ve stopped trying. I honestly don’t believe most people take the fashion industry seriously any more. When you see the mad clothes that no one would ever wear in the street, and the extreme thinness of the models. They’re like politicians, living on another planet.

I think Karl Lagerfeld looks completely bizarre (I don’t normally comment on someone’s appearance, but given the fact that he feels he’s got the right to do that…). Somebody described him as looking like a “new age undertaker”, which I think is quite funny.

And Earwiga, getting rid of scales is a great idea. I too have felt much better since I threw out mine. It’s not what you weigh (which varies from day to day anyway, because of the body’s water content etc) but what you measure and how you fit your clothes.

Elmo // Posted 14 October 2009 at 7:31 pm

the saddest thing is that Chanel used to be very feminist-or at least,as feminist as fashion can be. When Coco Chanel started up, her aim was to give women comfortable, easy to move in, everyday clothes-she created some of the first trousers for women. albeit fashion for the very wealthy, it was still incredibly important in giving women fashion freedom for the first time. But over the years its just become like any other fashion house-obsessed with unrealistic, uncomfortable clothing (designed for the minority of women who can fit it) . Lagerfield really pisses me off. As do the “real women have curves” brigade-we really cant win, can we? i feel inadequate for not having big breasts, and over-endowed for having a big arse-aaargh. oh, and French vogue? what utter *!&@*%!?!s. i don’t read magazines anymore,i gave up when i was 12, because even at that age i realised they are full of utter bullsh*t-they were training me to hate my body.

Aimee // Posted 14 October 2009 at 10:44 pm

Oh god this really annoyed me! Models aren’t ‘real women’? AGHRR! We are ALL real women.

Charlie Twist // Posted 15 October 2009 at 1:43 am

I’d have to speak with Laura here. Gay men don’t hate women. Hell some of them are some of our most staunch, reliable and honest supporters.

Lagerfeld is a moron. Have you seen some of the ad’s for his company? One of them made it onto the photoshopping disasters site recently because they pretty much removed a pretty, and quite thin, models spine to make her appear thinner *Shudders* It was quite disturbing…

As for the fashion industry itself: being a girl of odd proportions I gave up on designer gear well before I gave up on regular clothing stores, but I still had to give up on those. I think we’re beginning to see a big backlash against the mainstream fashion industry in the amount of DIYer’s around and the popularity of smaller creaters through sites like etsy.com

I know I sew at least 50% of my clothes, preferring to buy only t-shirts with cute prints and things I can not sew (like denim – it makes my machine hate me).

As for the magazine… a for effort :) They’re trying, what I’d like to hear back on if someone doesn’t mind reporting it, is how well they do showing a range of body shapes. Skinny girls come naturally, fat girls come naturally, so it’ll be interesting to watch how they handle it.

Laura // Posted 15 October 2009 at 9:47 am

Charlie,

I meant to put that Ralph Lauren photoshop disaster in the post, but obviously forgot. It now appears the model in question has been fired for being “overweight”.

Holly Combe // Posted 15 October 2009 at 10:54 am

I think it’s good that the Shine article (linked in the comment above) is being supportive of Filippa Hamilton but it does seem a little odd that it says “most of us know that a tall, young woman who weighs 120 pounds is not overweight”. Well, that’s something of an understatement because, according to the NHS BMI calculator, she has a BMI of 17 and could therefore be thought of as underweight!

I would say such an omission could actually be quite dangerous because it seems likely that it will prompt very thin readers who might already have issues with food and weight to check themselves and conclude that, according to Ralph Lauren, they are “overweight” (or close to being so) and subsequently starve themselves in order to reach some ever-shrinking ideal.

I realise BMI is often a flawed way to look at body size and that phrases like “overweight” are sizeist anyway but I do think the calculator’s indication that 120 pounds would actually be very light for 5’10” makes Ralph Lauren’s mindset seem all the more distorted.

Also, I understand that the phrase “more full-bodied” was in comparison to the ludicrous photoshopped image but I really hope that phrase isn’t going to start being bandied about in relation to any very slim models who are, nonetheless, considered too “overweight” for the likes of Ralph Lauren. It just seems like another way for people who are genuinely more full-bodied to be socially considered as somehow “off the scale” and for “obesity” to be demonised even further.

Kit // Posted 15 October 2009 at 12:04 pm

Aparrently Ralph Lauren are saying she was fired for failing to meet contractual obligations, but the terms of the contract are conveniently confidential (El Reg). Yeah…

Anne Onne // Posted 15 October 2009 at 3:34 pm

I read about this in the paper and was shocked that somehow this is still considered appropriate or better than hiring an actual WOC model. Just so stupid and pointless, a decision that only makes sense in the light of institutionalised racism.

On the ‘curvy women’ issue: I agree with everyone here. It’s clear to me that when most people say ‘men don’t like skinny women, they like curvy women’, they still mean really thin women, maybe even technically underweight women, just with bigger boobs. The number of times someone has said ‘I don’t get why women want to be thin, I like curvy women’ then says that he thinks the ideal figure would be like, say Cheryl Cole or someone similarly proportioned, drives me mad! Lovely those ladies may be, but they are not much more ‘curvy’ than the supposedly too skinny celebs , and it still doesn’t occur to people that even the weight of a ‘curvy’ celeb is actually normally underweight and impossible for most women to achieve healthily (assuming we should even want to).

That’s not even getting into the hubristic idea that we should, as women, focus on modifying ourselves on a daily basis, to be accepted, rather than being accepted for who we ourselves are or want to be.

Laura // Posted 15 October 2009 at 3:42 pm

Kristel – No, it isn’t a fact that many gay men hate women’s bodies. I don’t see how you or anyone else can possible ascertain that. Maybe you know gay men that hate women, but I know plenty that don’t. As far as I’m concerned, the stereotype that gay men hate women / women’s bodies is based on the idea that men can only like women if they want to have sex with us, and must be repulsed by us if they don’t, which is both homophobic and sexist.

gadgetgal // Posted 15 October 2009 at 3:56 pm

I know a lot of the women on this site will be a bit more clued up on the problems inherent in the fashion industry but I think there’s one very good solution which Laura hit on first – DON’T BUY ANY OF IT. Seems obvious but even buying a fashion magazine/lads mag encourages more of this because at the moment all they feature is one or two (mostly unobtainable) body types and way too much photoshop, and if you buy it (without registering a complaint) it’s seen as a kind of tacit agreement with what they’re doing.

And if you know of anyone rich enough to buy designer, try your best to talk them out of it. Karl Lagerfeld et al will only listen when it hits them where it hurts – their bank balances!

Shea // Posted 15 October 2009 at 10:23 pm

I’d like to point out that I’m not the one making the generalisation that “gay men hate women”. I said many gay men especially in fashion do. I think Lagerfeld is a rather obvious example. Whether this is to do with their own misogyny irrespective of sexuality or not (I don’t speculate). But the fundamental fact is alot of gay, male designers, from Marc Jacobs to Tom Ford, were or are in a position to change the way women are presented by these fashion houses. A positive example of this is when Gaultier sent Sophie Dahl, at her curviest down the catwalk (but even this was problematic- due to the skinny women/curvy girls dichotomy that exists). But they don’t seem to be using their power and influence like this. Instead we have the skinniest, most fragile looking and androgynous women possible. It is a cruel and unrealistic standard, and then to mock women who don’t meet that is just evidence of their hatred for women.

I’ve met a lot of gay men. As pointed out above a lot were wonderful, honest strong supporters of feminism, but a few were very misogynistic, unwelcoming and frankly disgusted by the female body. I heard the term “breeders” bandied about frequently and I do wonder if that is what Lagerfeld is really getting at with the “fat mummies” comment – a deep seated hatred and fear of women’s reproductive system and functions. (Not to mention offending the legions of his customers, who actually are mothers!)

I think it is also noticeable that there are very few if any strong and athletic models being used.

I’d really like to second what Elmo said – the saddest thing is that Coco Chanel was a pioneer of forward, women friendly fashion at a time when women were still in corsets. She designed some of the most creative and revolutionary clothes of the period, to free women from a restrictive view of fashion. I think Lagerfeld has really betrayed her legacy in this respect.

gadgetgal // Posted 16 October 2009 at 10:46 am

@ Jay

I like your comments about the “problematic ideas about women’s bodies” – it makes much more sense that the reason they come about could be some kind of expression of dissatisfaction with themselves (the people who work in fashion) rather than an illogical hatred of others. It always perplexed me when I came across an article about some kind of fashion designer with a photo of said designer, and they were usually the furthest from what they created on the catwalk! It’s strange but actually kind of sad for them – excepting the fact that a lot of them make loads of money out of it, it can’t do much to help their self-esteem in the long-term. I’d hate to be that unhappy with myself, imagine how depressing it would be just waking up and going to work every day!!

Jay McCauley Bowstead // Posted 16 October 2009 at 2:43 pm

Thank you Gadgetgal, I enjoyed your post too.

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