Marie Claire editor calls out model for being too skinny.


Here’s what I find baffling. Why would a designer want to use a model to showcase his clothes when she was so painfully thin that her skeletal body caused members of the audience to gasp?

One magazine editor – Marie Claire’s Jackie Frank  – was so disturbed to see this model on Alex Perry’s catwalk yesterday, she called this model’s agent:

Skinny Models Sydney Fashion week
Alex Perry Fashion Show, Picture: Lucas Dawson



She told a News Limited journalist, “When I saw those legs I nearly died. I rang the model agent and said ‘why is that girl walking down the runway when she’s clearly not healthy?”

The girl – the woman – is 21-year-old Cassi Van Den Dungen, former contestant on Australia’s Next Top Model and mother of a two-year-old son, who has just returned from walking the runway in Paris where catwalk models are required to be ‘Paris-thin’; even more severely underweight than regular models.

Starvation is job requirement.

I’ve sat in dozens of fashion shows where the audience will mutter about the appearance of underweight models but there’s always been a conspiracy of silence. Nobody mentions it to the designers or the agents, let alone the media.

I can’t remember a fashion insider ever publicly expressing horror or concern about the size of a runway model.

It’s usually only after they’ve left their jobs – such as with former Vogue editor Kirstie Clements – that they admit the reality of what it takes to work as a model. In her memoir, The Vogue Factor, Clements wrote about being on shoots where models fainted from hunger, models who visibly starved themselves and models who ate tissues to feel full. That’s how terrified they were of gaining weight and losing work.

So brava to Jackie Frank for finally saying what needs to be said.

After reading Jackie’s comments today, I called to speak with her between shows. Why did she choose to speak up? She’s been attending fashion shows all over the world for decades. Why this time? Why this girl?


“I just didn’t expect to see it [a model who was so thin] here in Australia,” she told me. “We’ve got this outdoor living which produces beautiful, athletic bodies like Elle Macpherson and Megan Gale. Obviously, models are thinner now but this crossed the line for me. I got a fright yesterday and I felt protective.”

Jackie Frank

“I was sitting at lunch with my team after the show and I said ‘I’ve just got to do something’ so I found out who Cassi’s agent was and I called her. I said I was worried about her being ill. She tried to say that Cassi has a two-year-old so she’s been running around after him but please…..

“It was not normal to see – we don’t need to do that here in Australia. Nobody wants to look at that, women don’t want to see that. There are enough girls here to choose from. We have some incredible models with healthy looking bodies. The skinny model conversation is always there in the media but I thought we’d moved past it. I don’t want to see that image on the front page of the paper representing the industry. And I’ve told my girls, we won’t be showing that kind of body in Marie Claire.”

“The agent told me, ‘Cassi has been staying with me for 10 days and she’s eating. She’s eating healthily.’ Cassi just got back from doing the shows in Paris and she’s trying to bulk up apparently. I have no reason not to believe the agent. But that model shouldn’t have been in the show.”


No, she shouldn’t. So why was she cast? I genuinely mean that.

Alex Perry is a smart guy. And a great designer. But how is choosing models like this one good for business? Because make no mistake. Fashion is a business. It’s not a community service or a charity or an altruistic exercise in making women feel good about ourselves. It’s about selling clothes.

That’s the only reason why designers have shows. They cost a fortune to produce and the designer needs to make that investment pay. That means they want the images of the models in the designer’s clothes to appear across social media, websites, magazines, newspaper and on TV so they’ll be seen by millions of prospective customers.

So why would you want to choose such a drastically underweight model to literally embody your brand?

Why would a smart designer like Alex – and so many others – think it’s a good idea to use models who appear sick and malnourished? Why do they think this is something women – their customers – want to see? Let alone to be.

Simple answer: this is the body type so many in the fashion industry truly believe looks good. The best. This is the size and shape and form they rate most highly. When you work in the fashion industry, it’s alarming how quickly your perception of what’s normal becomes warped. Look at enough fashion models, enough magazine spreads, enough fashion shows and you too will stop seeing the protruding bones. The jutting hips. The ribs you can count. The knees wider than thighs. The concave stomachs. The razor sharp shoulder blades. The sunken cheeks. The vacant stares.


Are these models hungry? Starving? Sick? That’s almost impossible to say. In most cases, an eating disorder is not something to be diagnosed by looking at a photo. The female body will always come in a range of shapes and sizes.

But just like it’s possible to visually distinguish between someone who is slightly and morbidly overweight, so too you can see when a model appears worryingly thin. Nobody but the model and possibly her doctor is able to determine how healthy she is, certainly not an agent whose objectivity is supremely compromised by the fact they earn a commission each time the model walks a runway or poses for a camera.

My message to magazine editors and fashion editors, stylists and creative directors is to follow Jackie Frank’s example. Speak up. Stop using models who appear unwell and who send dangerous messages to your readers and customers. Call their agents and express your concern.

I made a remark on my Instagram earlier this week referring to fashion week as The Hunger Games.

Sadly, for some, it’s not a joke.


Scroll through to see pictures from Alex Perry, Carla Zampatti, and other designer’s Sydney Fashion Shows.