We’ve all seen it: models in haute couture strutting down runways looking emaciated and downright unhealthy. There’s an obvious difference between what we see on the “cat walk” and what we observe in our day to day lives. This discrepancy is one we can notice and comment on, but overly thin models have become a chronic condition of the modern fashion industry. There seems to be no controlling these standards, which are left up to individual designers or fashion houses. Countries like Denmark, however, are taking a stand.
[bctt tweet=”This year, they are adding that all teen models be screened when they first audition.” username=”wearethetempest”]
When we consider how fashion images worldwide present standards of beauty, we must recognize that these women are representing what is prized in the fashion world. In an industry that sets itself apart in both cost and style, it’s easy to interpret what they present as an almost Platonic ideal of fashion. It feels superior to our everyday fashion – yet totally unaccessible.
And so, when those who model these ethereal creations appear as mere wisps of women, there’s a signal sent that this is the ideal form for a woman’s body. Whether the message is sent or delivered at an unconscious or unintentional level is irrelevant. The ramifications are not only disturbing: they’re deeply damaging.
The “haute” fashion brands are almost like a fantasy land. I remember spending hours reading thick fashion magazines when I was a tween and teen, admiring the exquisite lines of elaborate dresses and fine fabrics. Women posing as models seemed to occupy a liminal space between fairy tale worlds and the world I also occupied.
There is an obvious problem in the fashion industry with promoting an impossible aesthetic that promotes disordered eating and body shaming. Denmark is recognizing this issue and refusing to be silent or complicit any longer.
[bctt tweet=”Denmark is refusing to be silent or complicit any longer.” username=”wearethetempest”]
First introduced in 2007, the Danish Fashion Industry Ethical Charter outlines three main priorities for fashion models: that they get paid for their work, that they are provided with healthy food at jobs, and that they get an annual health check.
This year, they are adding that all models (who must be at least 16) be screened when they first audition.
The fashion industry seems to be taking a turn toward the responsible in recent years.
France banned ultra-thin models from the Paris Fashion Week in 2015. The country instituted both a hefty fine and potential imprisonment for any violations of this legislation and began requiring that any “touched up” photos be labelled. The French standard for models was set at requiring approval from a doctor that the model is healthy and has an appropriate body mass index considering their specific height, age, and gender.
[bctt tweet=”Denmark’s policy got more stringent this year with the launch of a teen-eval program.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Denmark’s policy got more stringent this year with the launch of a teen-evaluation program. The aim of this project is to prevent the self harm and disordered relationships with eating that tend to begin at a young age. This is especially true in the modeling and dance worlds, where there is scrutiny of image and a precedent of shaming women’s natural body types. Because the Danish Fashion Industry Ethical Charter (mentioned above) requires that models be no younger than 16 years old, every 16-year-old model will be screened. The test will check for “risky health behaviors and body measurements that may indicate an eating disorder.”
Every brand signed up for this year’s Copenhagen Fashion Week agreed to sign the Ethical Charter. Some brands have even taken further steps to ensure that models are protected from the pressures of the industry and prioritize health over image.
[bctt tweet=”Every brand signed up for this year’s Copenhagen Fashion Week agreed to sign the Ethical Charter.” username=”wearethetempest”]
CEO of Danish Fashion Institute and Copenhagen Fashion Week, Eva Cruse, said, “The Danish industry is aware of its responsibility and is prepared to take a collective step towards models having better well-being and towards a body image that is healthy and not sickly.”
Denmark’s fashion community is rallying around the well-being of its models, recognizing them as humans with health rights.
The pressure of the industry has forged a strong reputation for pushing a pitiful aesthetic, which invades the minds of young women around the world. This has detrimental effects on mental health, especially as it has gone mostly ignored in practical terms. For example, media sources have decried the diminishing figures of fashion models for years and though statements have been made by fashion houses about promoting a healthy image, this is the first instance of setting official requirements and legislating measures that ensure more healthful figures.
Though the industry has gotten flack for promoting thinness over health for years, Denmark and France are two countries of several who are working to change the status quo.
[bctt tweet=”Denmark’s fashion community is rallying around the well-being of its models.” username=”wearethetempest”]
The goal of this kind of testing is to change the kind of pressure models feel. Instead of promoting unhealthy eating patterns, such as starving oneself to reach a certain size in order to appeal to designers and photographers, models will instead be encouraged to be healthy. And instead of simply banning overly thin models, which does nothing to help them heal, these measures are aimed at improving wellness and access to care. This kind of screening encourages a differentiation of self, as well. For models to adhere only to size requirements takes away from their natural differences and what makes fashion icons special-their unique look.
The infamous reputation of the fashion industry’s stringent beauty standards is a tide that can be turned. Denmark is refusing to be complicit any longer in the damaging effects of promoting emaciated models in an industry that feels like a utopia.
The ideal should be health and individuality.