The list of top models who are being dragged into the controversial debate over the fashion industry’s demand for ultra-thin models continues to grow longer and longer.
The issue has long haunted the industry going back to the 1990s when the waif look swept fashion and helped launched models such as Kate Moss. But in recent years, even those standards of thinness no longer seem to apply.
The scandal erupted anew in June 2008, when Czech supermodel Karolina Kurkova was blasted by the Brazilian press for appearing on the runway in a bikini with back fat, love handles and cellulite.
Kurkova, 24, is best known for being a Victoria’s Secret Angel whose superfit physique has graced the pages of fashion magazines around the world.
When Heidi Klum was featured in a nude photo spread in the March 2009 issue of German GQ, a top German designer and modeling agency head said she was “too fat” to be a supermodel and she was dismissed as a nobody by legendary fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld. So, what has she done to deserve this? Apparently one too many schnitzels.
The latest to come under scrutiny is another Victoria’s Secret model Miranda Kerr but for the opposite reason. She was photographed recently looking “shockingly” thin.
The controversy over Kerr’s emaciated look comes less than a week after the fashion industry was rocked by another scandal over model Filippa Hamilton, 23.
A veteran of dozens of fashion campaigns and magazine covers, Hamilton was allegedly fired by fashion house Ralph Lauren for being too fat. She is 5’10” tall and weighs 120 pounds, measurements that she says are essentially unchanged since she was 15.
All too many models, however, are succumbing to the trend and drastically losing weight to fit into clothes made by designers. The trend has produced a backlash among some magazine editors and other industry leaders.
In a highly unusual letter sent to a number of top European fashion houses, UK Vogue Editor Alexandra Shulman accused designers of making magazines hire models with “jutting bones and no breasts or hips” by supplying them with “minuscule” garments for their photo shoots.
UK Vogue is now frequently “retouching” photographs to make models look larger, according to the letter, obtained by the Times of London.
“We have now reached the point where many of the sample sizes don’t comfortably fit even the established star models,” Shulman wrote to some of the biggest names in the business including, Karl Lagerfeld, John Galliano and fellow designers at Prada, Versace, Yves Saint Laurent and Balen-ciaga.
Her letter follows on the heels of the deaths of three models from complications relating to malnutrition, and the decision of leading fashion shows to ban size-zero models. But many top fashion industry figures do not share her point of view.
Curiously, American Vogue Editor Anna Wintour, who is far more influential, has been silent on the issue.
German designer Wolfgang Joop said Klum, 36, was “too fat” to be a supermodel. Joop, 64, is well known in Europe and Germany and is a judge on Germany television’s Next Top Model. Klum has hosted the show for the past three seasons in Germany.
Shulman claimed that the clothes created by designers for catwalk shows and subsequently sent to magazines for use in their photo shoots leave editors with no choice but to hire models that fit the clothes, or fail to cover the latest collections from the leading designers.
Supermodel Erin O’Connor called the stand by the editor of Britain’s most prominent fashion magazine as “a huge breakthrough.”
“The fact that Alexandra Shulman with her enormous influence has opened this conversation means that it will have a huge impact,” she said. “It has . . . made it compulsorily relevant that we address this now,” she told the Times.
Actress Kate Winslet also faced a backlash in her home country of Great Britain because she had lost weight. She was accused of going “Hollywood.” In England, Kate’s big appeal was her “normalcy,” wrote Liz Jones in the London Daily Mail.
Kate’s appeal in Britain was her slightly plump figure, her rounded curves and her accepting attitude about who she was and what she looked like.
But recently a new Kate emerged, probably best illustrated by her recent photo spread in Vanity Fair magazine. Winslet, 33, debuted a more svelte figure, lean and hungry looking and about as far from the frumpy English matron as she could get. And that’s what apparently set off the recriminations.
Actress Lindsay Lohan was the latest to set off alarms over a drastic weight change. She appeared model thin at New York Fashion Week in February and raised concerns that her health might be in jeopardy.
Producers on her latest movie told her to gain weight, because her character in the movie is supposed to look “normal.”
Shulman’s letter is being hailed in Britain as a turning point in the debate over model. One UK fashion industry executive called it “an encouraging sign” from one of the industry’s “leading lights.”
This is one instance when UK Vogue is outshining its American Vogue counterpart.