Thursday, June 18, 2009

It's not the models, stoopid. A guest post from my Deep Throat correspondent

You may remember that back in February, I ran a series of pieces about what it is really like to attend the Milan fashion collections. I had a huge response, including a spirited email riposte from an old colleague on the other side of the fence. This resulted in my running a series of posts from my Deep throat correspondent called Through The Looking Glass: The Horror of the Milan shows, on what it was really like to be at the shows as a fashion publicist.

This time my secret correspondent read both the editor of British Vogue, Alex Shulman's letter to the fashion industry pleading for larger samples so that they could use bigger (relatively) models and, today, Carol Midgely's column in The Times about "scraggy models and emaciated celebrities", and was fired up enough to email me about her experiences with slim models but even skinnier celebrities. Her email:

"In contrast to Alex Shulman's letter to the industry, I have very rarely experienced situations in which the samples are too small for the models (once or twice, mostly things with corsets) but have lost count of the number of times I have had to send a tailor to a celebrity's house to take in a sample I have lent them.

My theory about magazines making people thin is a bit more personal, and is along the lines of “If I have worked in this biz for 10+ years and have yet to lose any weight at all, it can’t be the fashion industry that is making young women thin, so it must be something else”.

Sample sizes got tiny about the same time celebrity magazines started to multiply like those weird mushrooms that grow under the trees that dogs like. Up to that point there just were not that many ‘red carpet’ opportunities that it was worth schlepping samples around for.

Now, almost immediately a sample walks off the runway it is on the back of a celebrity at some gala or other, and they are so teeny that the samples are shrinking. When you factor in the huge celebrity magazine market in Asia, and the even smaller size of celebrities in that region, tiny samples start to look inevitable. And when you look at the sales of celebrity magazines vs.the sales of Vogue, Bazaar etc, it is clear that a typical reader will be exposed to many more images of tiny celebrities than they will of tiny models and haute couture.

Given that it would be bad form for an editor-in-chief to take a whole other category of magazines to task for existing, Alex Shulman has probably focused on the nearest available target. Whilst it is admirable that she has such strong feelings, it puts the fashion houses in a very difficult position as the value of celebrity coverage, particularly to beauty sales, is so high there is little they can do to back away from lending to x-ray thin celebrities.

If I am right, once the public stops being interested in thinness, sample sizes will revert to their pre-Heat(magazine) dimensions."

LLG: I also wanted to add one of the basic truths about skinny models versus skinny celebs which doesn't seem to have been pointed out in the media so far, which relates to simple anatomy. Models are very tall, the majority over 5'10", (and much taller than the average lollipop-headed celeb) so it's physically impossible for most of them to get down beyond a size 2 because of the size of their skeleton, regardless of how much flesh is wasted off them....many female celebs, on the other hand, being generally somewhat vertically challenged, can feasibly get down to double zero, their skeletons being that much smaller in the first place.