For the past 20 years, emaciated models have fueled the fashion industry as the standard for sex appeal and style. It all started with Twiggy in the 1960’s, a skinny little pixie of an icon whose cute nonexistant thighs inspired my mother’s generation to lose a few pounds. But Twiggy wasn’t anorexic — Twiggy had a good metabolism, and I’m sure she never dreamed her thin frame would set a new industry standard for model weight. Since her day, the fashion industry has evolved to hail women whose weight is far below the World Health Organization’s healthy body mass index (BMI) of 18.5.
But now, it would seem as if change for healthy model weight is on the horizon. Following the death of Brazilian supermodel Ana Carolina from anorexia, a “national manifesto” on model weight is to be issued in Italy in February. In Madrid, models who are 5’11” must weigh at least 130 pounds to make the cut for runway shows. Mario Boselli, head of the National Chamber for Italian Fashion, is spearheading the campaign to stop super-thin models from appearing in advertisements. He says this will be a first step in combating fashion’s role in the promotion and glamorization of anorexia.
Of course, it’s unclear if the manifesto and Italy’s campaign will work. It will take involvement from countries worldwide, strictly enforced weight guidelines, and models who are willing to gain 30 lbs. But one thing is for sure: the fashion industry has to make the first move, because models aren’t going to head to McDonalds until they’re shown there is a market for a heftier physique.
My fear is that the fashion trade has grown too attached to its emaciated models. Top designers seem to be happiest when their models are little more than glorified coat hangers on which to drape their latest garments. But I, like thousands of other women who fall into the “average” size category, am keeping my fingers crossed for change.
What do you think will happen? Will the manifesto change the industry? And, if it does, what does this mean for marketing in general? Are we witnessing the birth of more reality-based advertising promoting healthier less glamorous lifestyles?