British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman has made headlines regarding her controversial views on the use of thin models on the catwalk claiming that she 'absolutely strongly believes' that size zero models are not the 'tipping point' for young girls on the brink of an eating disorder and that a legislation against the use of models below a certain BMI would be 'extremely unfair' for the industry.
Inevitably, many have taken to Twitter to criticise Shulman:
denial from Vogue editor on role catwalk plays in eating disorders. so many models have spoken publicly to contrary https://t.co/GJUl48KbWt— Harriet Baker (@harrietrjbaker) November 30, 2015
@itvnews cannot believe Vogue Editor saying models wld be treated like heifers - No it's called a health check & she is part of the problem— Michele Rickard (@MicheleRickard) November 30, 2015
With every sentence the Vogue editor sounds more and more like a villain from a Disney flick.— Kirke (@kirkenovak) November 30, 2015
To call her opinion 'denial' and claim that Shulman 'supports the use of anorexic models' is to misunderstand her completely.
Shulman is speaking in regard to a parliamentary enquiry initiated by an ex-model Rosie Nelson seeking to regulate the weight of models seen on British catwalks by making it illegal to employ models below a certain BMI which, Shulman quite rightly argues, will prove inefficient.
She's not the only one, Heidy Rehman, managing director at womenswear designer Rose & Willard also told ITV that the idea of using 'non-model models' actually 'went down like a lead balloon' with her team and when asked to give evidence by inquiry leader MP Caroline Nokes, leading designer Victoria Beckham did not respond.
Does this mean that the fashion industry has strict standards? Of course, we knew that already.
Does it show that they favour thin models? Perhaps.
Does it mean that they are responsible for encouraging eating disorders? Absolutely not.
The influence that seeing thin models on the catwalk has on young, impressionable girls of is undoubtedly an important one and in many cases does need to be addressed. But monitoring BMIs, as this legislation proposes, is not the solution. This is an issue that goes far deeper than numbers.
A tall and naturally slim woman may appear worryingly thin to some but have a 'normal' BMI and would therefore still be permitted to participate in catwalk shows. Equally, a completely healthy-looking, slender woman may happen to have a low BMI and not be permitted to walk in a fashion show, despite looking healthier than someone with a 'normal' BMI.
What's more, as Shulman indicates in her interview, no one is forcing anyone to become a model and subsequently abide by strict aesthetic standards. These women are willingly putting themselves into an industry that unfortunately demands such standards - weighing and measuring these girls isn't going to change the preferences of the hundreds of thousands of designers, agencies and bookings editors that employ these models. Nor is it going to have an impact on the millions of women suffering from body confidence issues - some of which will undoubtedly be aspiring models.
Issues regarding body image transcend the fashion industry. Yes, Victoria's Secret models may make us feel like whales, but so do a lot of things. In fact, one could argue that every element of popular culture promotes body insecurities: celebrities, TV shows, films, music videos, social media...the list is endless.
It would be ignorant to single out the fashion industry in this debate. It would be equally ignorant to assume that regulating a model's BMI will solve the issue. It is not going to obliterate an aesthetic that has defined an industry for so many years. The industry should, as Rehman suggests, be able to solve its own issues. It is up to the individuals who cast modelling shows and the designers who supervise them to judge whether or not a model is healthy enough to walk in a show. What's more, it is ultimately up to the model to decide whether or not she is happy to comply with certain industry standards - it may be their job to simply wear clothes but they are not simply coat hangers, they are human beings and just like us, they have a voice.
Olivia works for Condé Nast, owner of VogueSuggest a correction