In honor of Boston Fashion Week
I’m re-posting one of my faves – the time I got to see the great ones, Michael Kors and Anna Wintour speak at Harvard.
I hope you enjoy!
Last night I attended the Harris Center for Education and Advocacy in Eating Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital 2010 Annual Public Forum, Health Matters: Weight and Wellness in the World of Fashion at Harvard Business School. First of all, I’ve never really walked the campus of Harvard – its beautiful! Secondly, I found the forum was very interesting and am happy I went. It was one of those things where you know there are going to be a ton of people, you aren’t gonna know a single soul (just because I read Vogue doesn’t mean I know Anna Wintour) so you’re a little nervous. Sometimes you have to put yourself in that position; it’s good to be out of your comfort zone every now and then.
Michael Kors waves after his show February 18, 2009 during the 2009 Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York. AFP PHOTO/Stan Honda (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
The first speaker was Dr. David Herzog, Director of the Harris Center. He introduced a short film made possible by Conde Nast along with Michael Kors. He then introduced Anna Wintour, the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Magazine who explained more about the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) Health Initiative, which was put into effect in 2007. This initiative has been created in order to address the issue at hand – the fact that many models are too thin, dangerously thin even. This initiative is meant to protect these women working in the fashion industry, to promote the fact that being healthy = beauty. Some of the recommendations that came from this initiative have been minimum age requirements (now many designers will not book anyone under 16), no alcohol or tobacco backstage at shows (instead have healthy snacks and water available), red flags for models who seem to have a problem so that they might be able to recieve professional help, limitation of work hours, etc.
Ms. Wintour spoke of the fact that topics such as ‘a models weight’ along with her ‘mindset towards food’ have always been taboo subjects. The fashion industry along with their supporters need to get the conversation going and with each and every forum the conversation grows.
Designers make extremely small sample sizes, they usually don’t make bigger sizes until their clothes go to stores. These clothes would hardly fit a normal preteen before puberty hits. Can you imagine not being able to fit into a size zero dress as a 5’10 model at a photo shoot? You must feel like it’s your fault; you aren’t thin enough, you’re going to ruin your own career. Yet, it’s the designers fault because of their impossibly high expectations. They’re living in a fantasy world. Ms. Wintour spoke of a model named Lara who is 5’10, a size four and people wouldn’t book her because she’s ‘curvy’ (at a size four? come on.) Curvy = fat in the fashion world, which needs to change. Wintour said, ‘Designers need to re-size the sample size.’
The April issue of Vogue is the shape issue which feature’s stories from models who have struggled with eating disorders. It also is a celebration of different sizes, shapes and colors of women.
Michael Kors (an American fashion designer and judge on Lifetime TV’s Project Runway) spoke next, starting off by explaining how the Fashion Industry is ready to recognize real women again. The Industry has been showing a real level of respect for women who are women, not girls. Yet still, some models begin their careers as early as 14 and by the time they’re 20, they’re too old and washed up to work anymore – people are over them. Mr. Kors explained how this world is a heightened version of reality which can breed all kinds of insecurities for these young women. These women are backstage with 100 people and they have to get undressed in front of everyone – Mr. Kors feels as though one must be of a certain age in order to be mature enough to handle this.
Kors told us a story of an extremely popular model who had been around for four or five years at the time of this event. Everyone wanted to book her. He did book her for his show – without a fitting or a go see. She showed up looking fragile, unhealthy and frightening. She was set to wear a little black jersey dress with part of the back cut out. Her back was all bruised; her spine was literally bruising her body from the inside out. Mr. Kors and his staff decided they needed to alert her agency, so they sent along pictures from the show along with their concerns. His main point was the fact that it took all of those people working together to help this young woman realize that she needed serious help.
Kors closed with this, ‘Clothes are supposed to make you feel like the best version of yourself,’ this couldn’t be more true.
The last speaker was Natalia Vodianova, a Russian born model and Philanthropist. She spoke candidly about her own issues with body image and eating disorders, the voices (or ‘gremlins’ as she called them) in her head which spoke to her about food, how therapy has helped her and how she hopes it will be able to help all the girls she has encountered with extremely low self-esteem. Ms. Vodianova explained the pressure which comes with the sky-high expectations designers, editors, agents hold for models. Anorexia seems like the only form of control these girls can have in their career, the only way they will be able to please everyone they work with. If they starve themselves and can fit into that sample size zero dress at a shoot, they will cause less trouble and make things go smoothly. These feelings shouldn’t be placed upon these women. Everyone in the Fashion Industry must take responsibilty for how out of control this issue has become.
Ms. Vodianova spoke of the obstacles she has had to overcome in the world of fashion and how she is ready to speak out and address them in order to help other models and young women everywhere. She is married, has three children (and still looks amazing!) and most of all, she is happy.
I thought this discussion was excellent – getting people to talk about such a sensitive subject is tough. This is something that affects every woman at some point in her life – maybe you’ve never experienced an actual eating disorder, but you have experienced insecurity.
For the most part as women, we buy the magazines, we open them and condemn the beautiful models, we wonder why this woman is 5’10, yet can still pull off a size four? We all have days when we look in the mirror and don’t like what we see, we have days when we feel like we literally grew a size overnight, days when we dissect every inch of our body, days when we break down because we don’t look the way we ‘should’ look, days when we try on a million things because we can’t seem to find an ounce of confidence or beauty from anything we’ve put on.
We’ve all experienced jealousy and insecurity. Why does she have the money to buy nice clothes and I don’t? I could look better if I had that Chanel dress. Why did she lose her baby weight in four weeks? It has taken me a year and I still have ten pounds to go. Why can’t my hair be as shiny and healthy as hers? Why isn’t my skin as clear as hers? Why? Why? Why?
Why? Because you are you. Each individual person is inherently different, unique. Each person has been blessed with their own qualities, their own attributes. Your freckles are your own whether you have a lot, a little, or none, your legs – whether long or short, your arms – whether jiggly or toned, your nose – whether crooked or straight, your butt – whether big or small, your lips – whether full or thin, your eyes – whether blue, brown, green, hazel, etc. – they are all your own. Your body, face, height, breasts, feet, hands, eyes, hips, thighs, butt, stomach, ears, nose, arms, legs are all yours. They have been given to you as a gift. ‘Your body is a temple,’ I ask you to please treat it that way. We only get one chance at life – we better take care of ourselves.
And remember this, your body is only part of you. A large part, yes, but only part – not the whole. Your inside, your character, your ability to love, to show compassion, to use your brain, your ability to make decisions, to make people laugh, to share your gifts with others – are all a substantial part of your whole. Your stubbornness, your bitchiness, your laziness, your negativity, that’s all part of you too. The roles which help define us – a daughter, a sister, a friend, a mother, a grandmother, an aunt, a co-worker, a cousin, a girlfriend, a wife, etc. – are apart of us as well. We must celebrate the whole and stop picking ourselves into pieces.
This all may sound a bit hokey, but I believe it. And I hope that with each time a woman reads something like this, she believes it more and more.