Skinny models under fire at fashion weeks
With the return of fashion weeks around the globe, the narrative around models' weight has also rebounded. In recent years some fashion weeks have banned too-skinny models from the runway in an effort to curb unhealthy behaviour, especially as one model after another succumbs to severe illness and sometimes, death:
It was two years ago this past August when model Luisel Ramos died of heart failure caused by anorexia while participating in a fashion show. Her death gained massive media attention and first cast light on the problem of models starving themselves to achieve "perfect form." In 2006, "perfect form" for a runway model meant small, nearly flat breasts, narrow hips and a tiny backside.
This year at New York Fashion Week, the Council of Fashion Designers of America teamed up with the Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders to present a booth staffed with healthy young women who educated about the realities of eating disorders, referred treatment options, and raised general awareness.
There seemed to be some changes on the runway as well - media outlets noted that some of the models were up to size 4, and that incredibly young and skinny models were noticeably absent. Many designers offered healthy snacks backstage in support of this initiative, spearheaded in the US by the CFDA. But the debate rages on, as some critics still failed to see the "curvier" models on the NYFW runways:
Some members of the fashion industry were patting themselves on the back last week with claims that there were more "curves and smiles" on the Fashion Week runways this year. (See AP article below.) We beg to differ. What we saw on the runways was more of the same: women so thin they not only made us gasp in disbelief, but also made us forget to look at the clothes (which can't be good for business).
Europe has been much more progressive in promoting model health, going so far as to ban uber-skinny models on the runway. In many major cities, such as Milan, a model is required to have a body mass index of 18 in order to walk the runway:
Models participating in the Madrid Fashion Week, formerly known as the Pasarela Cibeles, must have a body mass index - calculated on a height-weight ratio - of at least 18, the limit set by the World Health Organization (WHO) for a person to be considered healthy.