Last week the fashion industry took a major step forward. For the first time in history, New York fashion week featured a plus sized fashion label. Cabiria, designed by Eden Miller, joined five other designers in a showcase presented by our good friends at the Fordham Fashion Law Institute, at the tents in the Lincoln Centre.
Miller breaks all the rules traditionally associated with ‘plus size’ clothing. Presenting a total of six looks, her clothes are big on bright bold prints and slinky materials. Her clothes have a vintage feel, a much more flattering cut on larger sizes. ”I think if you’re a bigger body, the print should be scaled up; it’s too twee to have a tiny pattern on a bigger girl,” Miller told Fashionista.
Despite the average woman being a UK size sixteen, models used in runway shows routinely come in at a UK size 4. In other words, emaciated. Or thirteen years old. The fashion industry has a long history of using underage models to sell clothes to adult women. It’s a trend that’s never made much sense to us – the majority of women that can afford designer clothes are usually forty something professional women – wouldn’t they prefer to see the clothes modelled by actual women and not girls their teenage daughter’s age? Nonetheless, season after season designers are found to be using girls as young as thirteen to showcase their designs. When Marc Jacobs was questioned on his hiring of two fourteen year old girls to walk his autumn/winter 2012 catwalk, he defended his choice, stating,
“I do the show the way I think it should be and not the way somebody tells me it should be.”
However, in recent years, we have seen some change slowly crawling in. In January, Israel introduced a new law banning models with a body mass index – a calculation based on height and weight – of less than 18.5 from appearing in adverts. The law also requires publications to disclose when they use altered images of models to make the women and men appear even thinner than they really are. The new law is not without controversy. Some question this very narrow definition of ‘healthy body’ as it will exclude models who are naturally thin. Others have questioned what difference it will make. Israel has a model pool of less than 300 girls and is not exactly known as the epicentre of the fashion world. Unless the big fashion capitals like New York and Paris introduce a similar law it is argued that it will not have any major effect.
But let’s not forget that even before Israel introduced the new law, Madrid Fashion Week had banned women whose BMI is below 18. Even more significant is Milan Fashion Week’s ban on models with a BMI below 18.5. Milan Fashion Week hosts designer heavyweights including Prada, Gucci and Cavalli and is arguably the most important fashion week in the calendar. Style bible Vogue launched ‘The Health Initiative in May’ last year, a pledge among all international editions to solely use models “who are healthy and help to promote a healthy body image”. The decision was met with a lot of eye rolling, after all, what defines ‘healthy’ anyway? But Vogue put their money were their mouth is and January’s cover girl was Kate Upton, the size 12 swimwear model breaking her way into the world of fashion, showing off her voluptuous womanly figure. Upton also appeared on the cover of Vogue Italia in November 2012 suggesting a trend could be developing. Some argue Kate Upton is a cover, a beard wheeled out as the industry’s defense to using anorexic stick thin models -she’s just one girl – and not representative of the industry norm. This may be true, but, coupled with Cabiria’s debut at fashion week, it can’t be denied we’re on the road to some kind of change. Let’s hope London follow in New York’s footsteps and we see some different shapes and sizes this September fashion week…
Image via http://www.plus-model-mag.com/2013/08/plus-size-fashion-news-designer-eden-miller-showing-first-ever-plus-size-clothing-line-at-mercedes-benz-new-york-fashion-week/