Diet Coke and Lettuce – Fashion’s Own Eating Disorder

September – Spain requires models have a BMI (height to weight ratio) above 18 to go down the runway.

December – Italy passes regulations that models must have a BMI of 18.5 will be sent home. Other req’s include a minimum age limit of 16 and the use of make-up to create dark circles under the eyes.

Brazil puts a ban on models under 16.

In between, the industry weighed in, outraged. Apparently the right of a model to show-off a “back…so cadaverous, her arms and shoulders so eaten away,” is in fact, the right of the fashion designer. The death of a girl who “hadn’t eaten in two weeks and three months prior to that had been surviving on Diet Coke and lettuce,” is just par for course. “Clothes look better on a hanger,” after all, and “Models don’t sign up because they want to be examples, They’re hired to be coathangers for designers … props for the collection.

The fashion industry repeatedly defines itself by its own thinness – and, like so many people who suffer from eating disorders, cannot see its own worth with an extra 10 pounds. I am not arguing that eating disorders are the sole fault or responsibility of modeling agenicies or the fashion industry, and I am questioning why we never seem to put any responsibility on the models themselves. However, if we are starving ourselves for the good of the clothes – well, that argument is as empty as the stomachs of Ana Carolina Reston and Luisel Ramos (when they were alive), Alyona, and countless other women and girls all over the world counting out how many cheerios they can eat today. Heh – maybe cheerios have too many carbs, who knows? Bottom line: The clothes don’t care.

I am not convinced that mandatory weigh-ins and outlawing certain make-up teqhniques is the best answer -but it at least acknowledges that we have a problem here – and that dying for fashion is preventable and pointless. In terms of reponding to some of the main justifications put forth by the industry – I really don’t know where to start. If the real concern is that clothes look better on skinny models – design different clothes. The entire concept of “looking good” is a perception. To me, clothes look great when I feel great in them.

In Fashion PR, especially for those of us working for ready-to-wear and/or independent designers – I think we have a real responsibility – and opportunity participate in this discussion. I believe there is a place where fashion can be fantastical, aspirational, but also socially responsible. Call me an optimist.

About This Author

Known as the “fashion publicist’s most powerful accessory,” (San Diego Union-Tribune) and the “West Coast ‘It’ girl of fashion PR,” (YFS Magazine) Crosby Noricks put fashion public relations on the digital map when she launched PR Couture in 2006. She is the author of Ready to Launch: The PR Couture Guide to Breaking into Fashion PR, available on Amazon. Crosby spends her time managing PR Couture and mentoring fashion publicists through PRISM and Instappable, as well as the biannual NYC workshop, Fashion PR Confidential. Occasionally, she opens up limited consulting spots for emerging brands through her signature offering, The Brand Elixir.