“It’s a big problem. I remember when I was young [and still modeling], they told me that if I didn’t lose weight, I’d be out of the show, so I spent a week living off of coffee. But I’m a very levelheaded person. These problems nowadays are with kids much, much younger than that, and that’s most of the problem – when they’re very young and vulnerable…”
“But it is a big problem in the fashion industry. And you go to meetings to discuss it, and you think it’s kind of futile, because it’s such a big thing, and in the end, people are always asking for more and they’re always asking for thinner… [Models] have to be a little thinner than you and I because you always photograph a little fatter, but you don’t have to go to the extremes they go to. And because they’re kids, they take it too far and they can’t regulate their lives, and next thing you know, they’re anorexic, and it is tragic.”
What Grace Coddington doesn’t touch on here is how dramatically your perceptions change when you’ve been working in the industry. And not just your perceptions but your attitudes. I worked as a booker for about a year back in 2007 and I was amazed by how quickly I was able to look at girls as commodities. They became like cattle – ‘too short, crooked teeth, bad skin, fat thighs’ etc etc.
But your perception of what it means to be super skinny is even worse. After a week of Haute Couture shows in Paris, I went from being literally shocked on the first day by seeing girls’ full rib cages and spines, to finding the same girls attractive by the fourth. You see something enough times and it becomes normal. Likewise when I came back from New York Fashion Week in September and went to New Zealand Fashion Week, I couldn’t believe how big all the models were here. Compared with New York, the majority were a good two sizes bigger (a size 8 or 10 in NZ as opposed to a 4 or 6 in NY). So I was looking at girls and in my head calling them plus sized, when by any normal person’s standards they’d be considered skinny.
I have fights with my family over it. I’ve become so used to anorexic looking girls that I’ll literally have a 15 minute debate with my mother or sister about how it’s A-Okay to put extra-super thin girls out on the runway. Like I said, you see something enough times and it becomes normal.
And I think that’s part of the industry’s problem. Of course people from the outside look in and see what a nightmare it all is – they’re looking from the outside. When you’re surrounded by it, looking at it everyday, obsessing over Natasha Poly editorials or watching an Alexander Wang show where every girl is literally stick thin, it becomes harder and harder to see the problem.
The crux of the matter for me – and I’m loathe to admit it – is that I do think that the thinnest girls look best on the runway. And I can’t tell you if that’s because I’ve seen so many shows (and so many ano-looking girls) that my perception is skewed, or that they actually do look better in the clothes. I’m obviously not alone otherwise the thinnest girls wouldn’t continue to be booked.
So what’s the solution? An industry watchdog run by people outside of the fashion world? A compulsory BMI test? They’ve tried it all before and the thin models still slip through the cracks (pun not intended).
Like Grace Coddington said, “Anna’s trying to do it. Personally we’re not allowed, at Vogue, to work with girls who are very thin, but you never know, because you could book them and think they’re a certain size, and they turn up on the shoot and suddenly they’ve spun into this anorexic situation. And you’re on the spot and you have to get the job done and you have one day to do it, and what do you do? But you try to be responsible, as Anna is.”
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