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Orbach petitions to ban zero size models from fashion week

skinny.jpg 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, 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.

Reader Comments (14)

The fashion industry needs to take responsibility for the dangerous ideals they promote and start making some drastic changes so people don't think they can look like the emaciated models in magazines that are not receiving treatment for their unhealthy looking bodies.
December 5, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDianne
I hate the size zero trend! as if size eight didn't produce enough crushing pressure that its so difficult to be immune to. but size zero is just so shockingly and impossibly thin, i just look at them and i know that i will never ever be that size, and part of me knows that thats ok because unless that just happens to be your natural weight then it just looks (and presumably feels) unbeautiful and painful, but at the same time it is being presented as an ideal and it makes me feel crap to think that i cant attain that ideal.But then I remember that sometimes the ideals that society presents us with are just wrong and this is one of those times. the problem is not mine for not being able to starve myself down to that size, the problem is society's for creating the pressure to be that size. i just have to say one more thing, sorry for waffling a bit. I think its very likely that the size zero trend contains within it the means by which it will be destroyed. The fact that it is a shockingly thinness may shock people into action. More and more people who have the power to change the situation will be forced to see the devastating effects of it. The fact that is an impossible thinness will be recognised when designers lose money because there simply are'nt enough size zero women to sell to. The impossiblity will further be illustrated as it becomes clear that many models are unhealthy or suffering from anorexia.This may have all been easier not to see before but as it becomes unmissable perhaps it will be changed.
December 8, 2007 | Unregistered Commentersarah
I dont think the girls should be held responsible for this societal pressure. Designers should, and the corporations that make billions from it should. But yet again, it is women who are blamed and bear all the conflicting presures for structural and complex issues
March 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda
I love skinny girls. But I don't think people should pressure others to be skinny. And I don't think it's just a created ideal, I think most girls look way better skinny. Just because models have hot skinny bodies it shouldn't make women feel bad anymore then when they see a girl with a hot beautiful face. Should we ban all beautiful faced models too because the average women is not that beautiful. Magazines us skinny models because skinny girl body are hot, it's as simply as that. Skinny girl have more shape to them with hot tight curves and small round butts. All that fat does is add layer of shapeless flesh. "Full figured" women have arms and legs that look like shapless sausages and their butt are wide and flat. Just because women gain weight around their hips does not make it in any way attractive, just ass men gaining weight in there stomach does not make a beer belly attractive.
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January 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWellyGuks
These models look like they are starving to death! They clearly look malnourished - and they are not healthy.

It is really sad and disappointing to note that inspite of several calls to ban the size zero trend for models in the fashion industry, the trend is still continuing.

Something really needs to be done. Many young girls and some women look at these ultra-thin models, and they think they must look like that, resulting in eating disorders among many girls and women.

This just has to stop.
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March 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterClarkDorin
The fashion industry needs to take responsibility for the dangerous ideals they promote and start making some drastic changes so people don't think they can look like the emaciated models in magazines that are not receiving treatment for their unhealthy looking bodies.
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