Apparently, Gucci was shocked when its ad was banned it the UK recently. It didn’t think the models were even close to “unhealthily thin”.
No bones were visible, they said. The clothes weren’t revealing, they said. And besides, isn’t it subjective whether or not the models look unhealthy?
We can hardly be surprised at Gucci’s response, though. After all, the fashion industry has been selling myths about women’s bodies for decades, seemingly without thought for the consequences – neither for the women appearing in their advertisements nor for the ones who see them.
But at least we're at a point where such images can be pulled from screens, billboards and glossy pages. Sadly, it took the death of models to make it happen, models like Isabelle Caro.
The French actress/model became a symbol of the fight against anorexia, after her emaciated, naked body was featured in a now-legendary 2007 awareness campaign by Italian label Nolita.
Caro's match-stick limbs and sunken cheeks were plastered all around Milan in the lead up to fashion week, sending shockwaves through an industry already reeling from the death of 21-year-old Brazilian model, Ana Carolina Reston.
"It is everything but beauty, the complete opposite," Caro said of the campaign. "The message is clear – I have psoriasis, a pigeon chest, the body of an elderly person."
Anorexia Nervosa survivor Victoria Montgomery discusses the role of genetics in anorexia. (Post continues after video):
Caro weighed just 29 kilograms in that photograph. She'd suffered anorexia nervosa since the age of 13, at times surviving on as little as a single square of chocolate and a cup of tea. Her disease wasn't a direct result of her career - she never claimed that. But she did say that, crucially, that no one in the fashion industry ever encouraged her to get healthy. Not even once.
She died in 2010.
The goal of that Nolita campaign was to shock the public into consciousness, and in many ways it succeeded.
The public outrage helped lay the foundation for laws either banning or discouraging the use of severely underweight models in Europe. Italy now insists on health certificates for working models, Spain restricts those below a certain body mass index from appearing on the catwalk, while France has even criminalised their employment.
Of course, advertising is much murkier. It's up to industry watchdogs, and it doesn't always work. But in the case of the Gucci ad, it did. And more importantly, it got us talking.
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