"No one wants to be caught with that photo 'Model Eats Cake'"-Coco Rocha, last night at the CFDA-hosted "Beauty of Health" discussion. A number of fashion industry insiders and CFDA members attended the discussion where model Coco Rocha, designer Michael Kors, and casting agent James Scully spoke about the issue of weight in the American fashion industry. Unfortunately while some very influential people DID attend (Anna Wintour, Francisco Costa, Diane Von Furstenberg, etc) there were many, many designers, casting agents and editors missing from the audience. Still, the three spoke boldly and honestly about their experiences and what needs to change.
Coco Rocha admitted that an agent once advised her to throw up after meals while another told her, "You need to lose more weight. The look this year is anorexic. We don't want you to be anorexic, we just want you to look it." She weighed just 108 lbs at the time. She spoke of the humiliation models feel at castings when those sample size zippers just won't zip up and how they avoid the catering tables that are filled with unhealthy choices. Last season, she admits, she began to take diuretic pills, "Once I took so many on an empty stomach that I was doubled over for hours. That's the last time I ever did something so terrible to my body."
Michael Kors pointed out that celebrities, even more so than models, starve themselves to fit into the sample sizes designers send them for the red carpet and that the images of these celebrities influence girls and women much more than images of models because of their wide spread appeal. For example, a girl in Kansas might never see a picture of Coco Rocha on a Michael Kors runway but she will see a picture of a favorite celebrity in Michael Kors and be influenced by that image. He told casting directors not to send girls to a casting that they most likely won't be booked for, "Sending a girl when there's little chance of her being booked throws a 16-year-old into a tizzy. The odds of a girl being booked for my show and Rick Owens’s are slim." He also asked other members of the fashion industry, beyond the models, to look at themselves saying that if editors, buyers, etc fit into the sample size dress they should be asking why and looking to see how their own bodies set an example and influence the industry.
Still, the focus remained on the weight of models with casting agent, James Scully reminding people that words can hurt. He put the issue most powerfully, "Let's stop treating models like greyhounds we plan to shoot after a race. We have to remember we are dealing with real people who have real feelings."
I can't help but feeling, as genuine as I'm sure these thoughts and ideas are, that it was a response to the negative press that the industry received after Ali Michael (strangely missing from the event was Teen Vogue editor Amy Astley who supported Ali's coming forward) talked about her industry sanctioned eating disorder. The CFDA did put together a set of rules two years ago after the death of a Brazilian model as a result of anorexia and this is the third event they've had to support the initiative but even so the timing does seem kind of interesting to me.
According to 5 Resolutions the event asked for three initial changes to take place during the upcoming NYC spring fashion week:
1. Provide healthier food at shows and shoots.
2. Asking designers to make fit models larger therefore making sample sizes larger.
3. For agencies to work closely with nutritionists, medical professionals and eating disorder specialists and to keep information and awareness available to the girls especially about the long term affects and permanent damage caused by eating disorders to discourage the behavior.