Fashion is forced to act on anorexia
By Graham Keeley
Models and shop manequins will get bigger as a responsible new wave sweeps the skinny look aside.
THE sight of wafer-thin models such as Esther Cañadas on Spanish catwalks could soon be a thing of the past.
Amid mounting concern about the rise in cases of anorexia and bulimia, the so-called slimming diseases, the bosses of Spain’s biggest fashion companies are to put an end to the ultra-skinny look.
They are to move away from what they call the “dictatorship of size 36” (about an 8 in British measurements) by exploring ways to avoid promoting the image of emaciated women, including the withdrawal of smaller-sized clothes from shop window displays.
With the backing of the Spanish fashion industry and designers, the Spanish Government has begun an investigation into the problem. A report is expected in three months.
After years of calls for action, Elena Salgado, the Spanish Health Minister, has raised the issue at meetings with Pablo Isla, the chief executive of Inditex, which owns, among other companies, Zara and Massimo Dutti; Ignacio Sierra, the chief executive of the department store chain El Corte Inglés; Juan Hermoso, the corporate director of the fashion chain Cortefiel; and Judith Ventura, the design co-ordinator for Mango.
They are likely to suggest self-regulatory measures for the fashion industry such as raising the sizes of clothes that are displayed in shop windows and ending the careers of the super-thin models.
In some parts of Spain they have not waited for Madrid to take action.
In Andalusia, in southern Spain, shops are banned from displaying clothes that are smaller than size 38, in a move to stop women who might have put on a pound or two from feeling that they are no longer fashionable.
Most mannequins in high street stores such as Zara and Mango — which will be familiar to many British tourists who have been on shopping trips in Spain — are made for clothes in this size. Of course, in reality, Spanish women are a little larger. The average size is said to be 40 or 42 — corresponding to 10 or 12 in British sizes.
However, campaign groups and the Health Minister believe that the catwalk “anorexia chic” and small sizes in shops just encourage a “culture of extreme thin-ness”.
Diagnosed cases of anorexia and bulimia are said to have reached one million in Spain, although reliable figures are not available.
Señora Salgado said: “These smaller sizes encourage extreme thinness and the pursuit of eternal youth. The majority of people cannot achieve this, but, in extreme cases, it can damage their health.”
For those who are campaigning for action to help sufferers from anorexia and bulimia, action is long overdue.
María del Carmen González, spokeswoman for the Spanish Association for the Defence of Victims of Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia, said: “Everyone in Spain knows someone who has one of these conditions. It has reached epidemic levels.
“What the Government and the companies are doing has got to be a good thing, but something should have been done before.”
The left-wing party Esquerra Republicana Catalana has tabled a parliamentary motion asking for the banning of material that could lead to bulimia or anorexia. The proposal included banning publicity of clothes sizes if it could be proved that it leads to the conditions.
J. K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter novels, has criticised society for its obsession with thin women and models. She wrote on her website that she did not want her daughters to grow up as “empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones”.
She said that too many healthy young girls were labelled fat when it was the models they looked up to who had the problem.
Size really does matter
ESTHER CAÑADAS has escaped the tide of criticism against skinny models, but her counterparts at Madrid Fashion Week were not so lucky.
Campaigners who are opposed to the effects that they say images of “almost transparent” girls have on their peers were furious at the catwalk shows.
The Association for the Defence of Victims of Anorexia and Bulimia said that most models were size 34 — about size 6 in Britain; but the organisers of the event denied this.
Spain’s fashion industry has become the target of campaigners who say that the images it presents confirm stereotypes and lead to cases of anorexia and bulimia.
Marta Wendlinger, a Barcelona fashion consultant, said: “The designers say they use girls size 38, but they can’t be . . . I think (the designers) say one thing and do another.”
- Inditex owns 2,772 stores worldwide, including Zara, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Stradivarius, Oysh, Zara Home and Kiddys Class. Last year its income was € 66.7 billion, an increase of 21% from per cent on 2004
- Critics estimate Spain has 1 million people who are anorexic or bulemic, although the Government has never released figures
- The figure in Britain is also 1 million, with 2 million in Germany
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