Julien Macdonald has really put his foot in it. The Welsh fashion designer and Britain’s Next Top Model judge has totally slammed plus-size models, referring to aspiring models in a size larger than an eight “a joke.”
I can remember when I was a teenager in the ‘90s hearing tales about modeling being a career that went hand in hand with eating disorders. I survived Kate Moss and the whole “waif” thing. What I don’t remember is ever seeing a plus-size model in a magazine (beyond Lane Bryant circulars or something). This is not the case today, where some plus-size models are actually almost-sort-of household names, where you can see curvier women in an increasing number of magazines and billboards.
Am I just remembering things wrong, or are Julien Macdonald and I just looking at the same world differently? (And, to be fair — and unfortunate — it is far more his world than mine).
Macdonald, who has an OBE for services to fashion, told Wales on Sunday in an interview: ‘This is a serious show. A catwalk model is a size six to eight.
‘You can’t have a plus size girl winning – it makes it a joke.’
Um … a joke? You’re, uh, joking, right?
Macdonald, ex-creative director for Givenchy, is unimpressed with the move towards using larger girls in campaigns, claiming the reality of the industry will take its toll on any model over size eight.
He said: ‘It’s not fair on them – you’re setting them up for a fall – I know what would happen to them afterwards,’ he said.
‘They are looked down on, they’re frowned upon.If you’re a size 14 in a room full of size eights – you’re in the wrong room.’
Hmm. Apparently not joking. Fortunately, the modeling world seems to be parting company with Macdonald on this issue.
Several designers and high fashion magazines have begun to use curvier models as the size zero debate continues to dominate headlines since the British Fashion Council’s Model Health Enquiry in 2007 was launched in response to concerns about the health of models on the catwalks at London Fashion Week.
High end fashion label Chanel used plus-sized supermodel Crystal Renn in their most recent show alongside Georgia May Jagger and High Street chain Mango featured her in their 2007 campaign.
Crystal Renn, by the way, is a name to remember. Renn, a Mississippi native, was “discovered” at 14 and immediately told to lose almost half her body weight. She made the effort (I mean, what kid that age wouldn’t drop anything—including a bunch of weight—when having a bona fide modeling career dangling in front of them?), and also fell into the trap that goes along with it. She eventually regained 70 pounds and found her niche as a plus-size model, and also shared her story in the memoir Hungry: A Young Model’s Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves.
The size 16 American spoke out against the designer’s stance, claiming models should not be categorised according to weight.
Renn compares the runaway to the streets, and insists there should be a variety of women representing all shapes and sizes.
She told The Independent: ‘The fashion world needs to change. Women on the street don’t relate to all this talk of plus sizes, and it creates an “us and them” mentality, which leads to comments like the ones Julien Macdonald has made.’
And it’s not just Renn.
In a letter to designers last year, British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman urged designers to increase sample sizes to prevent them from hiring models with ‘jutting bones and no breasts or hips’.
We are at kind of an interesting fork in the road. On the one hand, companies are going to want to make their clothes look appealing, and the reality is that this tends to be more likely on smaller women. However, let’s be realistic—the average American woman, according to the LA Times, is a size 14 and weighs 162.9 pounds.
It doesn’t have to be Lane Bryant vs. Victoria’s Secret Part Deux , but am I wrong in thinking that models should more accurately represent the typical woman than perpetuating this ridiculous perfect woman myth?