The Designers Unhealthy Influence
-Do designers have the right to encourage and support unhealthy body standards to present their products to the public?
It seems fashion has more of an influence over society today than it ever has. The majority of young girls have dreamt about gracing a runway, magazine cover or billboard. However the influences have led to issues for young aspiring models to be dangerously thin, expected to tolerate sexual advances and even harassment on the job as well as not being compensated for work done. These issues need more attention and need to be addressed and monitored.
The average age of models these days is 14-21. This age in a young women’s life is very influential and it can be very intimidating in this industry. Most are underage and without parental guidance since they’ve left home to pursue the path of becoming a model. Constant pressures to be thin have led to hospitalization and even death due to starvation, organ failure, anorexia or bulimia. These types of sicknesses create emotional issues. Yet with no time to address these problems due to busy schedules, it is bound to break these girls down and create long-term psychological problems. It is a short-term career, as many models ‘time to shine’ lasts only 3-4yrs at most. At the end most haven’t a clue what to do with the rest of their life. As seen in the documentary ‘Picture Me’ presented by former model Sara Ziff, many very successful models are left with the impression after a few years of modeling that their too old or not pretty enough anymore. Which is an awful way to think of yourself at still such a young age.
Most designers only seek out very thin, size 0-4 young girls to model their clothing. It lays flat on the body and gives the desired look the designers trying to achieve and sell. When the designers are creating their garment they use a mannequin to create it, that’s why the models chosen are similar to the same shape. When designer Karl Lagerfield was asked about using a bigger framed model he responded that “the fashion industry is supporting dreams and illusions, and no one wants to see a round woman.” Other designers such as Victoria Beckham have stated that many of these models are naturally thin and should not be discriminated against for having that body type. Although its quite unrealistic to think that, that many girls are naturally a thin build. If this were true, girls wouldn’t be fainting and having kidney failure and other health issues. Some models have been known to eat only lettuce and drink diet soda for up to 3 months before a show. With the other scary side of the industry being sexual abuse or harassment by high-profile photographers or other professionals in the industry. They’ve been known to try and convince underage girls to either go naked without notice or put in a compromising situation with an older male. They are then told to keep quiet about it if they want to be hired for future jobs. With extreme measures taken by certain girls to achieve the desired look for the job and compromising their morals and values for a job just isn’t acceptable. From a marketing perspective this just doesn’t seem necessary to put young models through this, with the average woman being size 6-10, you’d think to gain more profit designers would promote their products to a bigger market.
That being said it is understood that it is the designers right to design and choose how their creation is presented. But every other business is held accountable for their employees through either health and safety regulations and health care policies, limits on consecutive hours worked etc. Why should it be any different for models?
The Model Alliance is a non-for-profit organization started by Sara Ziff (former model) that works with modeling agencies to give models a voice in the workplace and improve basic working environments. Statistics listed on their website show 64% of models are asked to lose weight, 30% experience inappropriate touching on the job, 31% have eating disorders, 76% are exposed to drugs or alcohol on the job, 86% are asked to go nude without previous notice. During fashion weeks these girls are expected to go non stop. Working over the legal amount of hours and being run into the ground is not good for their health. The CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) has been bringing awareness and informing modeling agencies, designers and stylists to not use underage, extremely thin models. In 2009 The British Trade Union, Equity, agreed to take models on to a membership that provided injury compensation, legal, accounting services and visa advice. They also established a minimum wage of an average $100 per show with a chance of increase if the designer chooses to continue to use the model for future shows. More organizations and bills need to be passed in Canada though in order to set proper standards that designer’s and agencies need to follow to keep this a healthy environment for everyone.
Every model has the right to a professional work environment , with adequate pay and negotiable commissions and specific rights for those under the age of 18. It’s time for a change in the fashion industry as many young woman are looking up to these models and designers. A healthy example would have a huge impact on future generations and is what we should all be striving for.