By Morenike Taire
Uplifters of traditional African standards of beautyÂ have often cried out against the onslaught of so called contemporary Western standards on our environment.
Africans appreciated balance and regularity, which meant the lady of average size was more likely to be seen as beautiful than one of extreme size and height.
Even Western standards are relatively contemporary as classic art tends to portray beautiful women as full figured, healthy looking and not too tall.
Enter the fashion industry, and everything changed, with models getting smaller and smaller in size until they have all but disappeared. The result was epidemic levels of anorexia, bulimia and all kinds of other eating disorders that made professional models a constantly depressed and hungry lot. It did not stop at that, and models are known to use psychotropic drugs such as cocaine and heroine in a bid to stay perpetually trim and ease the depression. This has taken a huge toll on health resources in the Western world.
But times are changing on the ramp, as the London Fashion Week witnessed normal-sized women catwalk-ing this year. |
It was announced in Madrid earlier that only healthy-looking mannequins would be permitted to strut their stuff at the city’s annual style event. Anyone with a body mass index of less than 18 was banned.
Organizers of London Fashion Week were urged to impose similar rules which is expected to have in-demand models such as Lily Cole, Erin O’Connor, Alek Wek and Eva Herzigova kicking their heels.
But health agencies are adamant that legal steps must be taken to protect the health of the catwalk queens.
They believe it is about protecting the young women and men who work in the fashion industry, as well as those who are at risk of an eating disorder and can be influenced by the pictures that they see.
“The fashion industry is there to make money and there is no legislation to protect models. It basically exploits people who are underweight and forces others to follow suit.”
The Madrid initiative followed the death of 22-year-old Luisel Ramos during a fashion show in Uruguay last month. The emaciated model died of a heart attack moments after stepping off the catwalk – a result of having eaten nothing but green leaves, washed down with Diet Coke, for three months.
To put the Madrid limits into context, a BMI of 18.5 or below is classed as underweight by the World Health Organisation.
A model who is 5ft 9in would have to weigh a minimum 8st 12lb to be classed as healthy.
At present, the average 5ft 9in catwalk model weighs a mere 7st 12lb – a BMI of only 16.
Spain’s best-known model Esther Canadas, with an estimated BMI of only 14, failed to qualify for the show by a wide margin.
The world’s fashion capital, Milan, is proposing to impose similar rules with the city’s mayor, Letizia Moratti, confirming as much this week.
Models as large as size 16 sashayed, and the Bora Aksu fashion show at the event had healthier looking models instead of size-zero wannabes. He added: â€œYou also notice that these are girls who look healthy and happy.â€
Also, supermodel Naomi Campbell thinks it is not necessary for a model to be super slim. She said: â€œI think the bigger the better. I don’t comment on size, I think if someone is beautiful then they should do what they want to do.â€
High street giants like Debenhams have even begun using plus size mannequins in their windows.
Sarah Travers, who runs Europe’s largest plus-size modelling agency, said: â€œThe average British woman is a size 14 to 16 and it’s important that the woman on the street is able to walk into a shop and feel comfortable with the choice available.â€