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May 1 2013
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March 29 2013
Sex & Low Beach
If you pay any attention whatsoever to fashion (it’s okay, this is a safe space—we don’t judge), you may well have heard of the Vogue Health Initiative. For those unaware, this document, signed by all 19 editors of Vogue, pledges on behalf of the legendary magazine to uphold such lofty goals as to “encourage designers to consider the consequences of unrealistically small sample sizes of their clothing” and to “ask agents not to knowingly send us underage girls and casting directors to check IDs when casting shoots, shows and campaigns.” The Initiative was launched in May of this year, and with the recent conclusion of New York Fashion Week, arguably the most visible fashion event around, it seems a rather appropriate time to review the progress the Initiative has made—if any.
The problem with the wonderfully aspira- tional goals of the Initiative is that their results are incredibly hard to quantify. It’s almost unreasonable even to suggest that it would be possible to keep track of whether casting directors check the ages of the models for whom they are momentarily responsible, or to identify eating disorders in a world where “boneyard” is the buzzword—where impossible thinness is a common and identifying feature among the population.
Another problem with the Initiative is the noncommittal and frankly limp language that pervades the pledge: “We will not knowingly work with models under the age of 16,” “We will ask agents not to knowingly send us underage girls,” etc. There is nothing in the Initiative that so much as hints at the urgency or concern needed to fuel the furnace of change. There is only a feeling similar to bestowing upon someone a vanity title at a company: It certainly looks good to the outsider peering in, and may even excite hope in the recipient for a time, but in the end, it carries no real weight or significance.
In short: Have I seen any positive changes arise within the closeted world of Prada and its diet devils since the Initiative’s inception? No. Even in Anna Wintour’s editor’s letter introducing the Initiative, stereotypes were prominent. The text celebrated “whole issues” of Vogue Italia dedicated to “curvy girls”—surely just another reinforcement of the concept that the beauty of such “curvy girls” must be segregated. Also, the letter included an image of an iron-pumping Doutzen Kroes, which conformed to a very clichéd concept of feminine beauty—she’s wearing nude Louboutins, for Christ’s sake!—thereby totally contradicting the whole message of the piece.
But perhaps there is one thing to take away from this: Even a vanity title can create space for an idea to put down its roots. One can only hope that this is precisely what the Initiative can and will achieve.
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