Clearly, I love fashion. I love reading about it, writing about it, working with it, learning about it, and the art of it. However, there are many questionable aspects of the industry, namely the modelling industry. High fashion runways are a trail of tall, boxy, Caucasian double-zero models. Runways and magazines get heralded as open-minded, progressive brands for just featuring some tall, boxy, non-white double-zero models. But, IMG Models (a large, New York based modelling agency representing the likes of Lily Aldridge, Tyra Banks, Gisele Bündchen, Kate Moss and Miranda Kerr) has decided to start considering models who don’t fit their tight restrictions. IMG Models Senior VP and Managing Director Ivan Bart explained, “we want to be an ageless, raceless, weightless agency. We just want to represent the best people in the industry.”
The men’s industry isn’t any better than the woman’s. Male models are expected to be approximately six feet, slim-athletic build, mostly-Caucasian (though race seems less restricted in the male industry), with a strong, handsome face. Forbes magazine listed the ten most influential modelling agencies, and many of them clearly state some of their requirements on their websites.
The most arguably convincing argument for maintaining a campaign of stick-thin models is that they provide identical “canvases” to display the clothing on. When women get curvier, their individual body shapes begin to show, and they are no longer blank canvases that exhibit the clothing comparably. Obviously, there are a range of problems with this argument. Firstly, the health complications models suffer through to meet these demands. In addition, the objectification of models leads to many of the problems within the modelling industry, such as mistreatment. This approach has been criticized allowing artists to bypass a main feature of fashion design – making a piece work on a range of bodies. These critics argue that fashion is based upon the principle that, unlike other forms of art, ready-to-wear and retain fashion pieces should be able to work on more than just one body. Yet, runways are still confined to the 5’10, dead-eyed Caucasian model.
Beginning with Velvet d’Amour, who walked on the Jean Paul Gautier 2007 Spring/Summer runway, a wave of plus-sized models have begun to shift the industry, opening the door to alternative-looking models. Andrej Pejic, a male model from Bosnia, has dominated both the male and female runways internationally, creating oppourtunities for trans-models. There is currently an online campaign for Victoria’s Secret to sign transgender model Carmen Carrera as their latest “Angel”.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a wave being made by IMG Models as of yet. No other agency has come out with similar policy changes, and only time will tell if IMG will even follow through. IMG Models’s Ivan Bart recognizes that they will probably struggle to generate work for their newer models, as the industry is only making minor shifts right now, but they will also continue to hire models who fit the more traditional restrictions. He explained, “it might take a while for companies to adapt to what we’re trying to do, because we still have to work with the industry and if they ask for a sample size, we have to deliver”. I wouldn’t get too excited over IMG Model’s statements. Even though they promise to consider a wider range of models, IMG Models may not sign very many. And, the ones they do sign will probably not receive the same support and attention their more typical-model counterparts will. Ivan Bart seems committed to his promise, though, saying, “We just want to represent the best. With this new way of thinking, I can tell women who work so hard to get into the sample size, ‘Eat! Be yourself, just be the best you can be — exactly how you are!’ For us, as long as the talent is at a healthy weight that he or she and his or her doctor believe is right for them, and they’re exercising, since that’s a healthy way of life, then the industry should reflect that”.
What do you think? Would you prefer to see more realistic campaigns?
This piece was written by Rebecca MacDonald, Fashion Columnist at Rhetoric Magazine. Come back for more every Thursday!