In an article that details all kinds of problematic, Evening Standard writer Sri Carmichael reveals that a London modeling agency banned an underweight model from auditioning for London Fashion Week because she was “too big.” This is despite the fact that according to British National Health Services standards, she is half a stone (seven pounds) underweight.
The modeling agency justified its actions by saying that her hip measurements had increased by two inches. The agency, however, insisted that they were trying to protect her from “sad” designers who want women to look like “androgynous bloody coathangers.” Christoph Chalvet de Recy, the agency’s owner, blamed the “gay mafia” running the fashion industry who have “never fancied a girl in their life” and “don’t appreciate any curves.”
He went on to divest himself of all responsibility for perpetuating unrealistic expectations of women through his agency, saying, “We’re a business, so we do what is required. We think Madeline is beautiful and can get plenty of other work, but for catwalk and the big campaigns she has no chance. It’s not that she’s fat at all – we wouldn’t tell her that – but her hips were bigger than the samples designers have. The designers want very small.”
The model (who will be going to Oxford next year), didn’t seem to want to blame de Recy or others at the agency, saying, “The agency were kind about it, and didn’t want me to be humiliated by the designers, but I felt as if they were saying I’d stuffed my face over Christmas when I’ve hardly put on any weight and I eat really healthily and exercise. Designers need to get away from thinking only ridiculously skinny girls can sell clothes.”
Let’s take a step back here. First of all, the homophobia in de Recy’s comment is appalling: gay men are perfectly capable of appreciating the female body, and the responsibility for “robotic” standards of beauty falls on many shoulders, including fashion agencies who perpetuate it. Yes, it’s absurd that designers might have rejected this young woman – but if de Recy really cared, he could do something about it, instead of throwing up his hands and shifting all the blame to the designers.
Furthermore, there’s no indication that designers would have rejected this model – if everyone remembers, there was a huge scandal last September over the presence of “plus-size” (I use quotes because they are really just normal-sized) models at London Fashion Week. The tide could be changing – but nothing will be altered if models and agencies don’t try to challenge the system. And agencies have a responsibility to support and fight for their models – something that de Recy is clearly not capable of doing.
Photo from Pink Sherbet's Flickr Photostream.