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Fashion models' health guidelines will not help
The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), along with some physicians/fitness trainers, have made some recommendations – as part of a health initiative – to use healthy fashion models! The recommendations have no mention of a minimum body mass index or, of course, an enforcement provision. Looks like some American fashion designers, facing increasing public criticism of skinny fashion models, have decided to show faux concern for the health of models and attempted to quell criticism by proposing guidelines that they will skirt in numerous ways.
The report (sentences in italics are my comments):
Models' health guidelines -- will they help?
NEW YORK (AP) -- The American fashion industry says it wants models to be healthy, not anorexic, bulimic or chain-smokers. And to help them achieve that, the Council of Fashion Designers of America has released a list of recommendations as part of a new health initiative.
The guidelines were issued Friday, three weeks before designers start showcasing their fall collections during New York Fashion Week, which starts February 2. The guidelines, which are suggestions and not binding, include:
-- Keep models under 16 off the runway and don't allow models under 18 to work at fittings or photo shoots past midnight.
-- Educate those in the industry to identify the early warning signs of eating disorders. Well, well... super-skinny looks, not unusual among high-fashion models, the majority of whom are medically underweight, should be a red flag, and no one needs to be educated about this.
-- Require models identified as having an eating disorder to receive professional help and only allow those models to continue with approval from that professional.
-- Develop workshops on the causes and effects of eating disorders, and raise awareness of the effects of smoking and tobacco-related disease. Causes of eating disorders? Do they mean teaching the fact that gay fashion designers generally find the physique of normal 13-year-old boys hot and thereby select female fashion models that approximate such looks, putting pressure on them to be very skinny or else they will look like boys in their late adolescence?
-- During fashion shows, provide healthy meals and snacks, while prohibiting smoking and alcohol. I suppose the healthy meals and snacks will mostly comprise of organically produced tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and broccoli.
What's missing -- aside from a means of enforcement -- is any mention of the Body Mass Index. In September, Madrid Fashion Week banned models with a body mass index of less than 18. The standard accepted by the World Health Organization is that anyone with an index under 18.5 is underweight.
Italian government officials also got involved in the too-skinny model debate, apparently prompted in part by Spain's move and by the death of Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston, who reportedly weighed 88 pounds when she died. In a December deal with the Italian fashion industry, designers agreed not to hire models younger than 16 and to require all models to submit medical proof that they don't suffer from eating disorders.
The panel that formulated guidelines for American fashion designers included CFDA President Diane von Furstenberg, nutritionist Joy Bauer, modeling agent Louis Chaban, fitness trainer David Kirsch and Dr. Susan Ice, vice president and medical director of Philadelphia's Renfrew Center, which is dedicated to eating disorders.
"The CFDA Health Initiative is about awareness and education, not policing. Therefore, the committee is not recommending that models get a doctor's physical examination to assess their health or body-mass index to be permitted to work," the CFDA said in a statement. "Eating disorders are emotional disorders that have psychological, behavioral, social and physical manifestations, of which body weight is only one." What in the world? There is awareness aplenty; there is not going to be any education on their part regarding the underlying reason behind the abundance of skinny high-fashion models; and the guidelines are useless without policing.
CFDA Executive Director Steven Kolb told The Associated Press in an interview that the designers' understanding of the issue is that BMI is just one factor in a long list of criteria to identify eating disorders.
"A lot of the girls who work the runway are genetically thin. You go backstage and you see a lot of girls eating a lot of food and they're not gaining weight," Kolb said. If this is true, then a medical examination should reveal this, i.e., fashion designers should have no objection to having all fashion models being examined by physicians and given random blood tests shortly before a fashion week to ensure that the models have a clean bill of health. Any bets they will agree to this proposal?
However, he anticipated the question about whether voluntary guidelines would turn around the too-thin models trend.
"As an industry, fashion has always been concerned about health. Here at the CFDA, we've been in the forefront in terms of efforts (such as) Fashion Targets Breast Cancer and HIV/AIDS awareness," he said. "As the issue of underweight models became global, we, as a group, outside of what other countries have done, decided to do something. I actually think it was a really responsible move." This statement appears to be a sick joke. Donating part of hefty profits to medical research hardly suggests any kind of health concern, and HIV/AIDS is a big problem for the homosexuals in the fashion business, i.e., the homosexuals are funding research to solve their own HIV/AIDS problems. If the CFDA wants to be taken seriously, it should generously and almost exclusively fund eating disorders research. After all, just about everyone donates to breast cancer research and the CFDA should not be giving the impression that it is funding medical research to solve the HIV-related diseases of its own members.
Michael Vollbracht, the creative director at Bill Blass, which will stage its next runway show February 6, agrees that the industry needs to showcase apparel models who are also role models. But he also expects it will take time for industry eyes to adjust to a less-thin thin model.
"Thin is always in, it's how you show clothes," Vollbracht said. But then those size 0 styles are plucked by stylists for Hollywood actresses who then feel fat -- and then diet -- when they can't fit into the tiny garments, and there are so many girls and women who then look up to the stars. It's a perpetual cycle, he said. There is no need to be skinny in order to show clothes, which should be intuitive, and I will come up with an entry showing normal-weight attractive women doing an excellent job of showing clothes.
Vollbracht said that in the 1980s and early '90s, supermodels Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford had more curvaceous figures. "Heroin chic changed a lot of things," he said. "It'll take some time to change back." Cindy Crawford was indeed more curvaceous, but she was also quite muscular and had a manly face; she surely wasn’t a curvaceous feminine woman. Similarly, Claudia Schiffer, no exemplar of femininity herself, was an outlier. In the 20th century, there were periods during which American homosexuals were targeted for persecution and, correspondingly, fashion models were often feminine, but increased liberalization from the 1960s onward has made homosexuality more socially acceptable, and homosexual fashion designers have become bolder in implementing their aesthetic preferences, working toward increasing the proportion of high-fashion models resembling boys in their early adolescence, something that is bound to make more high-fashion models suffer from not eating enough; there were two deaths in 2006.