Former Vogue Editor Trashes ‘Dangerous’ Size Zero Standard


The Guardian has published an excerpt from former Australian Vogue editor Kirstie Clements’ new memoir, The Vogue Factor. Clements focuses on fashion and body image in the chapter, and while many outlets will no doubt focus on the “shocking” details she shares (fashion models who are regularly fed by I.V. drip because they pass out at work, or who eat tissues to feel full), her overall argument is that, as a system, the modeling and fashion industries are pretty fucked up.

It sounds as though the experience of editing Australian Vogue was a humbling one, and Clements acknowledges some mistakes — like an April, 2007, cover featuring then-15-year-old model Katie Braatvedt (above), which was criticized for sexualizing a child. “I lamely debated the point, claiming that the photographs were meant to be innocent and charming,” writes Clements, “but in the end I had to agree wholeheartedly with the readers. I felt foolish even trying to justify it.” Clements says she supports, at least in main, Vogue‘s subsequent international commitment to not use models under the age of 16, or who have eating disorders. “The first part you can police. The second is disingenuous nonsense, because unless you are monitoring their diet 24/7, you just can’t be sure.”

But Clements also engages in some of the industry’s standard buck-passing. “It cannot be denied that visually, clothes fall better on a slimmer frame,” she writes, casually justifying the use of extremely skinny models. Clements seems unwilling to shoulder her share of the responsibility for enabling an industry that profits off a very young and vulnerable work force and that sells an unattainable ideal to adult women. “When it comes to who should be blamed for the portrayal of overly thin models, magazine editors are in the direct line of fire, but it is more complex than that.” She continues:

The ‘fit’ model begins the fashion process: designer outfits are created around a live, in-house skeleton. Few designers have a curvy or petite fit model. These collections are then sent to the runway, worn by tall, pin-thin models because that’s the way the designer wants to see the clothes fall. There will also be casting directors and stylists involved who have a vision of the type of woman they envisage wearing these clothes. […]
After the shows, the collection is made available for the press to use for their shoots. These are the samples we all work with and they are obviously the size of the model who wore them on the runway. Thus, a stylist must cast a model who will fit into these tiny sizes. And they have become smaller since the early 90s. We’ve had couture dresses arrive from Europe that are so minuscule they resemble christening robes. There are no bigger samples available, and the designer probably has no interest in seeing their clothes on larger women. Many high fashion labels are aghast at the idea of producing a [Australian] size 14 [US size 10], and they certainly wouldn’t want to see it displayed in the pages of the glossies.

That’s all true — but Vogue is such an influential client that, if the magazine really insisted, it could act to raise standards if it wanted to. Surely Clements could have cast different models. She writes that she often witnessed models exhibit “dangerous patterns of behaviour” when they began working internationally:

When a model who was getting good work in Australia starved herself down two sizes in order to be cast in the overseas shows – the first step to an international career – we would say in the office that she’d become “Paris thin”. This dubious achievement was generally accompanied by mood swings, extreme fatigue, binge eating and sometimes bouts of self-harming. All in the quest to fit into a Balenciaga sample.

It’s always Balenciaga, isn’t it? “There are a few male fashion designers I would like to personally strangle,” says Clements. “But there are many female fashion editors who perpetuate the stereotype, women who often have a major eating disorder of their own. They get so caught up in the hype of how brilliant clothes look on a size 4, they cannot see the inherent danger in the message.” While these sentiments are nice, it’s a shame Clements didn’t speak up when she was in a position to effect change within the industry. [Guardian]

Victoria Beckham nabbed another Vogue cover — she appears on the August issue of Vogue China. She tells the magazine that she relates to the “millions and millions of women around the world” who have careers and family responsibilities, and that she intends her clothing to be “empowering” to female consumers. “empowering women and making them feel sexy and great when they wear my clothes means more than thousands of people clapping. Empowering women is what makes me feel good.” [Us]

Kanye West has a collaboration with A.P.C. launching July 14th. We look forward to interviewers asking him how he “juggles” work and parenting. [WWD]

Because your skinny jeans are not uncomfortable enough, Levi’s is launching a new line of women’s jeans called Revel that “marries the idea behind Spanx to high-concept jeans.” Women’s Wear Daily has the skin-tight details:

Levi’s starts with a four-way stretch fabric comprised of cotton, polyester, Lycra and DuPont’s Sorona fiber. It then prints a proprietary liquid chemical formula on the fabric interior that regulates the level of stretch in strategic areas, providing structure, support and a figure-hugging shape to the jean, rather than simply uniform stretch.

Levi’s vice-president Jill Guenza says, “The result is a jean that carves out the inner thigh, slims and smooths the outer thigh, lifts the seat and flattens the tummy.” Mmmh. Carved-out thighs. [WWD]

Karl Lagerfeld shot Cara Delevingne for the fall Fendi campaign. [WWD]

Coco Rocha, in her capacity as a contributor to PC Mag, tried Google Glass. She didn’t like it. [PCMag]

Is the outdated idea that “All-American” looks equates to blonde hair and blue eyes finally starting to change? [Fashionista]

• So it turns out that the suspension of free-trade privileges that the U.S. initiated against Bangladesh in the wake of a spate of extremely deadly and entirely preventable industrial disasters doesn’t apply to apparel and textiles imports. Apparel and textiles manufacturing is by far the largest sector of the Bangladeshi economy, and all the worst incidents — like the Rana Plaza collapse that killed 1,129 and the Tazreen Factory fire that killed 112 — were in apparel factories. However, today in Geneva, representatives of the U.S., E.U., Bangladesh, plus the local garment manufacturers’ association, the International Labor Organization, the union IndustriALL, and others, are meeting to discuss new safety accords. [WWD]

• The number of international brands that have signed onto the five-year, legally binding agreement that institutes mandatory independent safety inspections for all Bangladeshi suppliers, has grown to 70. The signatories include H&M, Zara, Benetton, Marks and Spencer, Esprit, and Abercrombie & Fitch, who will be responsible for paying for the necessary safety improvements (and for continuing to pay workers when factories are closed for repairs). [BBC]

• It’s been a while since we had a good critic/designer dust-up. This one involves Jean Paul Gaultier,’s Tim Blanks, and — as these things seemingly always do these days — an open letter ostentatiously Tweeted. Blanks didn’t like Gaultier’s feline-themed couture show and wrote as much, calling it “sheeny,” and “brash,” with a “downmarket” celebrity guest-model, French reality TV star (and former criminal associate of a Zairian fraud syndicate operating in Switzerland — no, really) Nabilla Benattia. Blanks said one look offered “a reminder that Gaultier was once considered the one true heir to the throne of French fashion,” before concluding, “But that was once upon a time, and that time has, sad to say, well and truly passed.” Gaultier’s response began:

Dear Tim, Once upon a time you liked my shows “but that time has truly passed” and I respect it. But the Tim I knew before would never have made the attacks that are more personal than professional. I always had girls in my shows from different social strata, treating someone as down-market is cheap.

[, @JPGaultier]

• Ugly shoes — Birkenstocks, Adidas shower sandals, Tevas — are apparently “in” for summer. [Fashionista]

• Lynn Yaeger really did not like the full-face masks at Maison Martin Margiela’s couture show. “It is difficult to even imagine how they can find their way out from backstage,” Yaeger wrote of the models. “I hate this, as I think it represents an attempt to dehumanize and silence women, though it is a fetish the house has promulgated for years.” [The Cut]

• Net-A-Porter has launched clothing collaborations with five contemporary artists — Marina Abramovic, George Condo, Terence Koh, Vik Muniz, and Mickalene Thomas. Abramovic contributed a jumpsuit, intended to be worn in a set of seven (one for every day of the week) that she calls “Energy Clothes.” Koh, who once told us (while seated front-row at a fashion show, obviously), “I believe in owning nothing,” designed a white bomber jacket embroidered with 20,000-plus fake pearl beads. No word on prices. [WWD]

• Bally co-creative directors Graeme Fidler and Michael Herz have left the company. Reportedly, they’re going to ply their trade for Mulberry. [WWD]

• Rihanna does not really understand winter clothes, says Adam Selman, the designer behind the collection for River Island that bears her name. Having grown up in a warm climate, “the way I approach winter style is to layer up summer clothes and Rihanna does the same,” Selman says. But they’re pressing on with the fall-winter collection. “There are coats and sweatshirts — those pieces were key. It’s a little more refined.” [Vogue UK]

• Karl Lagerfeld, who would probably collaborate with a bag of chicken nuggets if it asked him nicely, has collaborated with the French retailer But by photographing a “curated” selection of its cheap furniture and homewares for the catalogue. [WWD]

• Today in References to Designer Brands in Rap Songs, Jay-Z’s “Tom Ford.” (And, um, that Drake song where the chorus is just “Versace, Versace, Versace, Versace” — which is actually a really hard word to repeat over and over.) [Vogue UK]

• Douglas J. Dayton, an executive at the former department-store chain Dayton’s who became the first president of its discount subsidiary, Target, has died at age 88. [WWD]

• And now, a moment with Roger Vivier designer Bruno Frisoni. Bruno, how does it feel to be knocked off?

“Fashion is really about novelty. People copy things that are already old. [My job is] to create something new. Anyway, being copied means people look at you. As Yves Saint Laurent said, imitation is the highest form of flattery.”


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