Will it work?
The industry has had some time — as well as the fashion weeks in New York and London — to digest the news of the charter drawn up by Kering and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton to protect models’ well-being and ban size-zero women from the runway and from fashion shoots. The reaction to the move from designers, executives and models on both sides of the Atlantic has been generally positive — although many point out that far more needs to be done.
Ethnic and physical diversity, as well as models’ everyday care, should also be top priorities, according to industry bodies, brands, stylists and model agents. And as the fashion show circus enters its latest laps of Milan and Paris — where most of Kering’s and LVMH’s brands show — it remains to be seen how committed or disciplined companies and designers will be in adhering to the charter, which also bans the hiring of models under the age of 16, in some cases.
“Ultimately, I’m not sure it’s workable,” said Robin Derrick, who served as creative director of British Vogue for 19 years and who is now executive creative director at Spring. “The casting is all part of the creative decision and expression of the designer. Nobody wants to see normal people.”
On the other hand, Derrick said, there is evidence to show “that the industry welcomes other female versions. People are bored of seeing size zero models. Anything that promotes health is good.”
Here, the industry weighs in on the initiative, and what the next steps should be.
Tomas Maier, creative director of Kering-owned Bottega Veneta and designer of his own brand:
“It’s good that the two big groups have put their foot down and got together and said: ‘We don’t want this, and we don’t want girls to be treated that way,’ and I agree. It’s common sense and respect for human beings, that’s all, but maybe it’s good to say it.”
While the charter does not address diversity, Maier said he has always been a proponent. “I like diversity in age. Remember, I had Lauren Hutton in my show at age 72 because I’m talking to all women. I’m not only talking to girls who are 16 years old,” he said. “I’m also for diversity of ethnicity and skin tone because I like to make a point about that, too.” He lamented that very few Milan shows feature women of color beyond the one he does for Bottega Veneta.
Bruno Pauletta, chief executive officer, Brave Model Management, Milan:
“Speaking about the size, I totally agree with the measure. There are some designers for whom size-zero is a must, but that’s not for everybody. Fortunately, there are a lot of designers who use different-sized models and don’t ask for size zero, which is Italian 36. But saying that a size zero can’t walk the runway is counter-productive. In some rare cases, a model is naturally thin and has the right features.
“For example, when Bianca Balti started her modeling career with us she was a size-zero, she was 20 years old, she ate well, she was healthy and she still is. If this rule had been around when she started, most likely she wouldn’t have been able to have the career she had. That said, there are so many models who are not naturally thin and they should remain the way they are — true to their sizes and not so skinny — so I totally agree we should keep attention on this. We need to inquire, paying attention to each case.
“We’ve always paid attention to the physical and mental health of the models we represent and believe that if a girl is naturally thin, then she can keep on trying to pursue this career. Otherwise we discourage girls who are not naturally thin, whose sizes the fashion industry considers too large.”
Piero Piazzi, president and European business coordinator of Elite Milano:
“At last! The charter is manna from heaven. Elite has its models undergo medical examinations, and during my 31-year-long career I only witnessed three cases of anorexia. Talking about size, I support the Kering-LVMH measure because it’s not acceptable to see skinny girls on the runway and you can’t help but notice them, so I wish that this decision from Kering and LVMH would become effective immediately.”
Coco Rocha, model
“If we’re all about being inclusive, it’s rough to say that every size-zero person is unhealthy. I’m a size-zero and I just ate a hamburger. I couldn’t gain the weight, it’s just not who I am. One day, when I’m 45 it will happen. So the whole thing is about being inclusive. If you’re size curvy or if you’re size skinny, you don’t want to be an overweight person who is unhealthy and you don’t want to be an underweight person who is unhealthy.
How do you then decide you’re the healthy one and you’re the unhealthy one? It’s hard. We have to understand there are people out there who are petite and skinny and they can’t do anything about it. It’s been all about being inclusive and I love it, but I don’t think removing some girls because of the stigma that they are unhealthy is fair. There are probably some girls who are unhealthy, so we need to decipher who that is and how do we change that.
Age is definitely an important factor because we’re so young when we start — and it’s amazing — but you’re not quite grown up enough to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or understand that you can say ‘no’ to things or have a voice. I started at 14 and had great people in my life who helped me out, but I still made my own mistakes. I was helpful in a law that passed a few years ago for underage models. They have to be taken care of like underage actors — we didn’t have laws for ourselves.”
Steven Kolb, president and ceo of the Council of Fashion Designers of America:
“I think it’s great. Every approach has to come from what’s best from that brand and that city. In this instance, these are two big fashion conglomerates and it’s a very powerful statement they’re putting forth. Now the proof is in the execution on how true it will be in terms of follow-through. The intention is there and genuine and sets a good example. But back from 2008, when we started the health initiative, we’ve been very consistent.” He added that the CFDA Foundation and Equinox Coalition for Health as Beauty just held a panel discussion with model Carolyn Murphy about health and nutrition for 50 rising models.
The CFDA health initiative doesn’t ban size-zero models from working, and Kolb pointed out that the CFDA’s health guidelines are recommendations. “We felt the best path was to come from education and reminding and encouraging people. I’m not a medical doctor or an expert when it comes to eating disorders or a nutritionist. Our approach has been not a forceful mandate, but a recommendation.”
The CFDA sends out its health initiative every season before fashion week. “In recent seasons, we’ve been including diversity. I’ve seen more diversity — not enough diversity, but more diversity — and I think the American runways are the most diverse in terms of casting. I’d like to take some credit for that, as well.”
Katie Grand, stylist, editor of Love magazine and contributing fashion creative director at W Magazine:
“The designers I work with reacted very positively after [casting director] James Scully’s intervention last season, and have been extremely conscious of looking after the models’ welfare. He really has changed the industry for the better, but more can still be done. As an editor and stylist I have frequently called agents to draw attention to a girl’s weight or health where I have felt there is cause for concern.”
Elizabeth Saltzman, fashion and red-carpet stylist:
“Positive change is good — as long as it’s effective — and it’s great to see LVMH and Kering working together. But I don’t want to hear the word ‘ban.’ Instead, how about focusing on wellness and nutrition and making sure that models are well looked after? It’s not as much about banning size as it is about looking to wellness — providing models with smart water [with electrolytes], giving them real food, not junk food, and making sure their blistered feet get looked after.
“Also, there are naturally thin women out there who know how to take care of themselves, and 42- and 44-year-old women who can fit into runway samples. The conversation is not just about sizing — I wish it could be more toward wellness.”
Robin Derrick, executive creative director at creative agency Spring:
“The charter is to be lauded. It was interesting because at British Vogue, where I was creative director for 19 years, I spent the first 10 years slimming the models down and then the next 10 years fattening them up. Alexandra Shulman [former editor in chief of British Vogue] was instrumental in trying to get brands to not use size-zero models.
“Ultimately, I’m not sure it’s workable — the casting is all part of the creative decision and expression of the designer. Nobody wants to see normal people. There is evidence to show that the industry welcomes other female versions, though — people are bored of seeing size zero models. Anything that promotes health is good.”
Osman Yousefzada, designer:
“Diversity is something that’s quite important to me. I don’t always use models in my shows. I often mix it up and use real people. For fall 2017, we used a former model who was 40, has kids, and she fit into the clothes perfectly well. Another of our models was a healthy size 10. It’s not hard to make things that are slightly larger.
“In a way, the industry is so removed from the customer. An average customer who can actually afford luxury is probably in her 30s and a very small number of women are probably size zero. Unless you have a million models buying your clothes I think you’ve got to be closer to your end consumer. You’re creating a dream, and there’s no denying that it’s a dream. But there still needs to be a healthy element of reality in there.
“There are lots of girls who eat a lot and they are quite skinny naturally. When you’re young you can be really healthy and skinny, but for me I just think that the notion of a model should be much wider than just being about someone who is size zero. They’re there to make the clothes look good and to inspire, but they can be inspiring in lots of different ways. I think everyone has a choice. We’re all grown ups. You can make your own decision like we’re doing. It doesn’t need to be because of a big charter.”
“I think it’s a great and much-needed development. With anything like this, there is always a chance it won’t work, but it’s fantastic to see François-Henri Pinault and Antoine Arnault make such a positive joint statement. It’s also great to see two very big companies come together to engage in something so positive for the well-being of the models. I’m 100 percent behind them. Things like this are exactly what the industry needs.”
Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, French fashion’s governing body:
“The federation is taking full measure of the charter signed by Kering and LVMH in favor of models’ well-being. We must highlight the diversity of the houses we represent. Among the houses, some have been strongly engaged on an individual level. Other, smaller houses or young designers operating within the framework of the legislation in place will not be able to immediately take on all of these commitments. We will continue, on behalf of our members, to continuously promote ethical and social responsibility in order to achieve exemplary standards.”
James Scully, casting agent, on Instagram:
“I would like to thank François-Henri Pinault and Antoine Arnault for meeting me and pulling a team together where both companies agreed to sit at the same table to create a worldwide company manifesto for the well-being of models. It specifically outlines an increase in body size, hours and compensation, better working conditions, no more 15-year-olds.
“This is an amazing step forward by the two most important companies in the world and they are dedicated to keeping this permanent. We hope other groups will soon follow suit. I am humbled at the amazing urgency and determination that both groups acted upon to make this happen so swiftly.”
Pierpaolo Piccioli, creative director of Valentino:
“I agree that the system should go in this direction and I personally will support this initiative.”
Chanel’s international press and external relations department:
“Everything that helps improve the well-being of fashion models and practices of the various parties involved is a step in the right direction. For many years, the House of Chanel has had very strict internal guidelines in place for our teams and partners who work on the organization of fashion shows and photo shoots. We are committed to implementing the best possible work conditions for our teams and are particularly attentive to the well-being of our models.
“Chanel joins and encourages this initiative, but remains cautious with regard to certain aspects that we wish to delve into further. We have asked the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, as our profession’s representative, to study this matter.”
Candice Swanepoel, model:
“I think whatever the girl is naturally is the way she is — that’s fine. If it’s not healthy, it’s not fine.”
Olivier Lapidus, creative director of Lanvin:
“I think this is a useful initiative. It is in line with the evolution of our profession. I congratulate Kering and LVMH for this advance.”
Frances Corner, head of London College of Fashion and pro-vice-chancellor of University of the Arts London:
“Fashion has always had the ability to make us feel good about ourselves, but for too long the fashion industry has perpetuated the myth that there is only one acceptable form of beauty. As head of London College of Fashion, UAL we have, for more than 10 years, worked closely with advocates, such as Caryn Franklin, Debra Bourne and Erin O’Connor from All Walks Beyond the Catwalk and more recently with Elizabeth Peyton-Jones from the Responsible Model Trust, to use our collective voices to reclaim fashion from this narrow definition and promote diversity.
“We applaud LVMH/Kering for delivering a charter that will protect the well-being of models and hope that it will inspire the rest of the industry to follow suit. At London College of Fashion, UAL we have developed a wide agenda, which includes social responsibility, environmental sustainability, awareness-raising and collaboration, to encourage dialogue between staff, students and our wider community to develop an understanding of how we can use fashion to create better lives for all – from working with female offenders in prisons to refugees in Jordan – we are creating a dynamic space for students to think beyond external representations of beauty and how fashion can enhance how a person feels, to create an industry which celebrates diversity and beauty in all forms.”
Cyril Brulé, founder and director of Viva Model Management and president of the French trade association of modeling agencies, Syndicat National des Agences de Mannequins:
“From the moment people start asking questions, that’s already a first victory. The first difference, no matter what happens, is that a message has been sent to models, and the message is this: ‘You are working for groups that recognize there has been abuse and problems, and they want to help you.’
“From the moment the first message is sent to models, they should no longer be afraid to say, ‘I experienced this’ or ‘That happened,’ because they realize they will be listened to and taken seriously by the houses they work for. Some don’t dare to say anything or to create a scandal because they are afraid of losing their jobs.”