The skinny model outcry is now an annual event. It coincides with fashion week. Every year, it’s been there. It’s an eye-roll because it’s so predictable. Every year thin models, every year angry backlash.
Which leads to the question – every year – why hasn’t it changed? If the outcry, like the event itself, is annual, why doesn’t the fashion industry stop casting waifs?
It’s baffling to outsiders, but I know the answer.
First, let it be said that some waifs are thinner than others. And some waifs wind up in hospital, and this is never, ever okay.
So, why did Alex Perry tell Today this year that his sample has gone from a ten, to an eight, to barely a six in the past few years?
The answer to that question is local. Cut off from the rest of the world, still in its relative infancy, crushed by a soaring dollar and lack of manufacturing savoir faire and pressured by the arrival of international brands, the Australian fashion industry is incredibly insecure and therefore, conservative.
Australian fashion people are painfully aware that we live in the provinces. The boonies even. Because of our geographical and economic insecurity, we do what all awkward fledglings do. We copy what the coolest, oldest most established players are doing, in order to fit in. In fashion, that would be Paris. Having girls who walked in a lot of shows overseas is a huge sign of prestige for an Australian designer.
Since fashion week moved from May to April, many of the models cast at Australian Fashion Week shows come straight off the runways at Paris. They’ve just completed a grueling month of international fashion weeks, flying from New York to London to Milan to Paris.
The Fashion Month circuit is brutal. If you’re working a lot, it means you’re working six to seven day weeks, for eight to sixteen hours a day. For a month. There’s rarely food backstage. Most models will scarf whatever they can get their hands on once a day, between shows or late at night. For a month. Not because they want to, but because that’s the reality of the job.
It’s not unusual for a model to start fashion month model-thin, and end fashion month frighteningly thin. Australia gets our models back once Paris is finished with them.
Using a girl who didn’t walk at Paris in your show? Not very sophisticated. Except when it is. Bianca Spender’s show on Wednesday evening featured many models who haven’t done the international runway circuit in several years, and looked so much the better for it. Her models were still a sample size, but it was a sane sample size. She is more established in Australia than most. She can take that risk, use her clout to cast models who are self possessed, stunning, grown-ass women like Tanja Gacic, without fear the model might steal light from her clothes.
For others, casting fresh-from-Paris mannequins feels like a safer bet.
So why does Paris demand girls to be model-thin in the first place? This is a little more complicated than Australia’s act of keeping up with Le Joneses.