Image: Models at this September's fashion weeks in New York and London, showing that not much has changed regardless of the 'Model Health Inquiry' in London.
Feminist psychotherapist leads new onslaught
By Judith Duffy, Health Correspondent
www.sundayherald.com, October 1, 2007
A PIONEERING psychotherapist has launched a petition urging the fashion industry to bring more "body diversity" to catwalks amid the continuing row over size zero models.
Professor Susie Orbach, author of the seminal 1970s book Fat Is A Feminist Issue, is calling on designers to acknowledge that the continued use of "dangerously underweight" models is having a "devastating" effect, resulting in body hatred among women and girls. Campaigners are being urged to sign the online petition, which will be presented this week to the organisers of London Fashion Week. Supporters in other parts of the world are now also taking up the idea.
The move comes in the wake of criticism of the British Fashion Council (BFC) for failing to ban size zero models from the catwalks at London Fashion Week, which ended last Thursday, despite such a stance being taken by fashion houses in Milan and Madrid.
The issue of ultra-thin models was highlighted again last week with the death from suspected malnutrition of Uruguayan model, Eliana Ramos. The 18-year-old was the sister of Luisel Ramos, whose death last year at the age of 22 from heart failure during a catwalk show triggered the furore over size zero.
Orbach, who treated the late Princess Diana for eating disorders,told the Sunday Herald that the idea was to challenge the fashion industry to improve the situation.
"It is not really a question of attacking the fashion industry per se, it is more about what they can do that will add more spark and do it in a really interesting way to fashion," she said. "There is this kind of crazy economics - most people aren't size zero, so what on earth are we doing promoting clothes and selling them in sizes that people don't exist in?"
The petition, organised through AnyBody, a campaign for the acceptance of body diversity set up by Orbach, calls for a ban on the use of models under 16 years old or with a body mass index (BMI) under 18 in London Fashion Week. Orbach said the idea of the petition was now being taken up by campaigners in other cities, including Toronto.
Susan Ringwood, chief executive of Beat,formerly the Eating Disorders Association, pointed out that as well as potential health risks to the models themselves, the use of extremely thin people on the catwalks sent out mixed messages to those suffering from problems such as anorexia.
"We spoke to some young people recently who had an eating disorder and asked them what effect they thought the media had on them," she said.
"One person asked me how come it is OK for these people to be very skinny and celebrated on the front of all the magazines, but I'm told it is dangerously unhealthy and I have to go to hospital?
"That is a very difficult contradiction to explain to a 13 or 14-year-old."
Ringwood said Beat has offered expertise to a healthy models taskforce which has been set up by the BFC and London Development Agency (LDA), including training on how to understand the signs of eating disorders. Last week the organisation attended London Fashion Week to distribute leaflets on the risks of dieting.
Fatima Parker, president of the UK branch of the International Size Acceptance Association, welcomed Orbach's petition. She said: "The fashion industry should take into consideration that we come in all shapes and sizes."
Nobody was available for comment at the BFC or LDA.