By  on January 30, 2007

Don't tell me what to do.

That is the general mantra of the freedom-loving fashion industry as it struggles to cope with the superskinny model controversy. With New York Fashion Week just 72 hours away, to be followed rapidly by London, Milan and Paris, the issue is increasing the pressure on designers.

And many don't like it. Karl Lagerfeld labeled the effort to regulate models "politically correct fascism."

Everyone agrees anorexia and eating disorders are serious issues, but most point out the problem isn't restricted to the fashion industry. Hollywood is equally to blame, according to many designers and magazine editors. "It's not even attractive to see a grown woman looking like less than 100 pounds," said Janice Min, editor in chief of Us Weekly. "Nicole Richie is a celebrity because she lost weight." That doesn't mean fashion is blameless. Vera Wang recalls a model passing out in her showroom because she hadn't eaten enough (the designer didn't cast her). Meanwhile, Nicole Miller has taken to weighing models backstage to make sure they aren't undernourished. So as the fall runway shows kick off, WWD canvassed designers, editors, modeling agencies, advertising executives and health professionals to get their views on an issue sure to be debated throughout the season.

Designers: no big changes
That is the main consensus of fashion designers, who, for the most part, say they are not going to make any dramatic switches in the type of models they're hiring to walk their fall runways. And they don't want to be dictated to by their respective fashion organizations.

"The idea of ‘regulation' is revolting, but so much today," said Karl Lagerfeld. "Models are about looks, not about weight. For me, it's not even an issue; it's part of this new politically correct fascism."

While the focus seems to be firmly planted on models, designers believe the fashion industry is being singled out unfairly, and that Hollywood bears equal responsibility for promoting the images of superskinny women.

Carolina Herrera noted anorexia is prevalent among ballet dancers and students, as well as actresses.

"We have a big responsibility with this disease because it can be found everywhere — it's not only seen in fashion," she said.

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