The big issue: Penelope Cruz edits Vogue 'plus-size' edition
Jess Cartner-Morley writes in last Friday's Guardian
Actor kicks off further debate on the size issue by endorsing larger models in magazine's French version
In the heady world of high fashion, few issues have ruffled feathers as much in recent months as that of size. And now further fuel has been added to the debate about the use of larger models thanks to an edition of Vogue edited by the actor Penelope Cruz.
Cruz was chosen to edit the French edition of the title and has promptly waded in with a provocative shoot that stars the size 12 model Crystal Renn in photographs styled by the magazine's influential editor, Carine Roitfeld.
Cruz's intervention comes at a key moment within the industry for models with body shapes more akin to those of the majority of women. Last month, a special "curvy" edition of French Elle lavished praise on cover girl Tara Lynn's "adorable belly fat".
And two months ago a Louis Vuitton show, entitled And God Created Woman, cast curvaceous older models such as 46-year-old Elle MacPherson and 31-year-old Laetitia Casta in starring roles on the Paris catwalk alongside the more usual ultra-slim, teenage models.
Vogue's images of Renn – who is almost naked in some shots, and clad in tight leather in others – seemed proof that the campaign to broaden definitions of beauty, spearheaded by British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman among others, is gaining ground even among the famously slender Parisiennes.
But then came comments attributed to the highly influential fashion blogger Garance Doré that cast doubt over whether the Paris fashion world was ready to endorse women who do not fit the catwalk samples, which are now usually a British size six. Doré told Sky News: "it's not such a good thing to show plus-size because it's not really physically healthy and not always flattering to fashion." Her views appeared to echo those of Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld, who recently attacked "fat mummies" who "sit there in front of the television with their chip packets and say skinny models are ugly".
And while Doré followed up with an apparent attempt to backpedal, she did stand by criticism of designers who use plus-size models – in what she considers a tokenistic way – and criticised how they had been used at London Fashion Week. Doré said: "It should not be such a big deal to show women with different bodies, but sometimes it's treated like a bit of a joke, or for shock, like the plus-size models on the runway in the UK fashion week. I think it's too much and almost naive of the fashion industry, because it would be nice in a few years that the idea of different body shapes is normal, but right now it's not."
Models such as Renn, Lynn and Hayley Morley "represent the diversity of women's bodies, and what I said is that I will be happy to see them on a runway on a regular basis, just not all together at the same time," added Doré.
The row has again ignited the touchpaper on an emotive issue within the industry. When Mark Fast used Morley and other plus-size models in his London Fashion Week show last year, a backstage disagreement about the logistics of casting and dressing different-sized women blew up into a media storm, with Fast forced to deny charges of not wanting to work with plus-sized models.
But Doré, who posts photographs and writing on her eponymous blog and has become a front-row presence at fashion shows, tried to play down the row. "I never said that plus-size models are unhealthy," she told the Huffington Post. "That would be totally stupid of me." Referring to a V magazine shoot which photographed a plus-size model alongside her catwalk-sized equivalent and to a London Fashion Week catwalk show which featured plus size models on the catwalk, she said "if things like V Mag or the Mark Fast show contribute to making people more tolerant and the fashion industry more open to that, then it's just great and a good sign for the future. I, myself, am not a model at all, and I have always said that I like my curves."
And she described the French Vogue star Renn as "absolutely gorgeous," adding: "I would love to photograph her."
Shapes of their own
Age 23. Size 14. Renn began modelling at 14, and became a plus-size model in 2003. Highs Closing the Jean-Paul Gaultier show in 2005. Last year she published a book called Hungry.
Age 36. Size 14. Dillon began modelling at 17. Highs Has been photographed by some of the world's most revered photographers, including Mario Testino.
Age 25. Size 10. Kroes is not officially a plus size, though has been much discussed for her curves. Highs Walking on the Prada catwalk this February, longstanding relationship with US lingerie brand Victoria's Secret and, in 2008, being the world's fifth highest-paid model, grossing $6m (£4m).
Age 21. Size 14. Morley shot to fame last September when she appeared on the spring/summer 2010 Mark Fast catwalk during London fashion week. Highs Starring in the latest Evans ad campaign and appearing in the Guardian's Weekend magazine.
Age 23. Size 18. Lynn was catapulted into the fashion limelight when she was photographed as part of V magazine's Curves Ahead issue in January. Highs Appearing on the cover of French Elle.