Finger-pointing is not a recognized weight-loss exercise. But you wouldn't know it from the vigor with which they do it in the fashion industry. Particularly when the subject of skinny models comes up. And recently it has come up a lot, what with one malnourished South American model dying when she stepped off the runway, the Madrid fashion shows barring models who are too thin, and the scary walking chopsticks who came down the runway in New York City this month.
The Madrid move, which was to bar from the runway any model who fell below a certain weight, may have been simply a genius marketing exercise. (Hands up, any-one who knew Madrid even had a fashion week.) But it had a ripple effect. Edinburgh, the biggest fashion center in all of ... Scotland, announced it would do the same for its fashion shows. The mayor of Milan, where the shows are this week, said she wouldn't be opposed to having that restriction in her city. No one took her up on it. Ripple effects don't have much of a shot against the surging currents of fashion.
Pretty much everyone--everyone not directly involved in the business of clothing, that is--agrees that something has to be done about the waning weight of models. Twenty years ago, the average model was a size 8; today she's a size 0. It's easy to explain why models are so skinny--because of their strict dietary regimen of nicotine, arugula and rock-star boyfriends. But nobody can explain why they have to be that way.
Modeling agencies, the motherly folks who inform the models that they can eat or work but not both, say it's because photographers demand subjects with skin, bones and preferably nothing else. The photographers say it's the designers who set the limits. Giorgio Armani, one such designer, last week blamed the stylists, the people who put together the looks for the photo shoots at the magazines. The magazines say it's Hollywood or it's advertisers or it's both. And the advertisers say people find their products more desirable when on, next to, or usually just barely covering slender body types.
And what do we the people say? Do we rise up and say, "I categorically refuse to buy any article of clothing unless the person promoting it weighs more than she did when she wore knee socks?" Or at least, "Where do I send the check for the chicken nuggets?" Actually, not so much. Mostly, our responses range from "I wonder if that would look good on me?" to "I don't know who that skinny-ass cow is, but I hate her already."
Clearly, the cycle has to be broken somewhere, and the good folks of Madrid should be applauded for trying. Alas, they picked on the scrawniest link in the whole fashion chain, the model. It's like trying to wipe out Lyme disease by killing Bambi.
These are not supermodels we're talking about here. (Hello? They're working in Madrid.) They're very young girls, often teenagers, often from East European countries (the "emerging economy" look is big right now), who are in a strange land, away from home and surrounded by people who want to make money off them. So what they really don't need is someone assigning them the blame for being too thin.