Street Signs

The Skinny On Fashion: Will Designers "Beef Up?"


Fashion Week kicks off today in New York City – although the event itself seems to be taking a bit of a backseat to the backlash the fashion industry faces over “super-skinny” models.

Teri Agins is the fashion reporter for The Wall Street Journal. On “Street Signs,” she spoke of the worldwide protest against the industry using such thin models on its runways. They still do it, though, because it’s a sign of high fashion, she says (plus, everyone knows the camera adds 10 pounds).

Agins says it’s gotten worse, too – not only are models thinner than they’ve ever been, but they’re younger. Where designers used to employ catwalkers in their 20’s and 30’s, some models now are barely in their teens, Agins says.

It’s possible the international “super-skinny” backlash, which began in Europe and South America after a Brazilian model died of complications from anorexia, is hurting the fashion business. Industry sales have been sluggish for the past 5 years and haven’t showed signs of picking up. It could be because of a genuine public distaste for rail-thin models as it’s hard for the average consumer to relate to them, Agins says.

But in the wake of the controversy, some designers and companies seem to be taking notice. Diane Von Furstenberg, the influential "fashionista" and head of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, recently advocated for the use of “healthier-looking” models on the runways. Victoria’s Secret (a unit of Limited Brands ) has also had success using healthier, more mature-looking models, according to Agins. In addition, Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren – two powerhouses in the fashion world – have never used “super-skinny” models in their shows or advertisements.

While no official “super-skinny ban” is in effect during Fashion Week, it is expected that the public outcry will mean a lot less size zeroes in New York these coming days, as over 100 designers show off their fall collections.