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Bradley Bayou on the fashion world and eating disorders, and thick-legged Ali Michael

Some fashion world news of interest.

Bradley Bayou concerned about the thinness of fashion models

A few days ago there was a panel discussion on eating disorders titled “Redefining Perfection: Beauty, Fashion and Body Image” at Harvard University.  One of the speakers was fashion designer Bradley Bayou, providing input from the fashion world.  Whereas I don’t have a transcript of the discussion, I doubt that they nailed the culprits behind the thin fashion ideal.

Bradley Bayou, known for also designing clothes for large women (size 6-plus), was apparently moved to action after his teenage daughter, Alexis, developed bulimia.  Alexis couldn’t fit in a number of the clothes designed by Bayou.  This was covered in an article  by CBS news last year, and some excerpts from this article are addressed below.

Here is a description of Alexis Bayou developing her disorder:

“I never fit into any of his sample sizes,” she says. “As a teenager and as a young adult, I thought I should be able to fit into his certain size (the tiny sample sizes) … because I was his daughter. And I just — didn’t.”

Bayou observes that the message the fashion industry “is sending to everybody is, ‘If you're not thin, you’re not going to be happy.’”

“I wanted to be thin,” Alexis recalled. “I wanted to fit in. You know — I wanted to be beautiful. … I’ve always been so proud of him, and I always ... I always kind of wanted to fit into his world.”

When Alexis started college, she started taking diet pills — binging and purging.

To Bayou, she looked great: “All of a sudden, like, she was like she could wear my clothes. She was like model thin.”

“I was like, ‘You know I'm working out,’ “Alexis says. “I'm eating right. And really — no — that was a lie.”

The truth came out when Alexis had a breakdown, and had to tell her father she was bulimic.

“She was literally collapsed on the floor, and was hysterical, like, out of control, and saying things like, ‘I want to die,’” Bayou remembers.

“It was that serious,” Alexis says. “And I think, if it had kept progressing, it would have been really bad.”

So a fashion designer was not able to figure out that his daughter was eating in a disordered manner over a period of years and was inspired by what he did.  How are these individuals and other fashion world personnel supposed to watch out for signs of disturbed eating in fashion models as recommended by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) when they faced some heat?  The CFDA guidelines were a farce though Bayou only calls them inadequate.    

The CBS news article also had the following sentences:

But even the man for all sizes knew that skinny sells. Thin was in.
Bayou also points out that, if the average woman is around a size 12, there's a huge market out there that is underserved, with lots of money to be made designing clothes in larger sizes.

So how does skinny sell?  Clothes designed for skinny women cannot be used by the majority of women.  Most women know that they won’t look like models when they wear the same design, that is if the clothes came in their size to start with.  The remaining possibility is that skinny sells because the public admires it and is prompted to buy products pitched by skinny models, but these products have to be other than clothes though the writer is talking about clothes.  Another useless article.

Thick-legged Ali Michael

Ali Michael

Ali Michael was effectively dropped from the spring 2008 Paris Fashion Week because her legs were too thick (see above).  Only one designer, Yohji Yamamoto, cast her.  She was also not booked at the spring 2008 London Fashion Week.  Ali was a star last year but gained 5 pounds, making her unsuitable for modeling.
Excerpts from the report (Wasn’t skinny supposed to be out of fashion? – by Christina Binkley):

This year, the models are just as thin -- if anything, they look thinner. This was particularly visible in Paris, which sets modes for clothes and fashion shows around the world.

“I think it’s gotten worse,” said Nina Garcia, fashion director at Elle magazine and a judge on cable television’s “Project Runway,” while we waited to see Balenciaga. “In the fashion industry, the models are getting thinner and thinner, yet as a culture, we’re getting fatter and fatter.”

The Paris runways this week have been as flamboyant as ever, and exceedingly thin models are a big part of the show.
It’s hard to imagine Miss Michael, a willowy, 5-foot-9-inch teenager, being told her legs are too fat. Last season, Miss Michael made herself sick keeping her weight down, said her mother. Miss Michael's reward was to be heralded as the next supermodel.

She opened Lanvin in Paris a year ago and walked the runways of Karl Lagerfeld, Christian Lacroix, Chanel, John Galliano, Dior, Rodarte and others. She appeared in Harper's Bazaar, Teen Vogue and W magazines and was personally congratulated by Vogue's Anna Wintour.

Her mother, a stunning woman who was once a model herself, said her daughter’s model friends have struggled to get thinner in recent months and that her daughter, worried about her health, chose not to starve herself.

With heavy makeup, it’s also easy to overlook how young many of them are. Miss Michael was “discovered” in Texas at 15.

Yet another illustration of the fashion industry’s penchant for masculinized skinny teenaged girls.  How difficult is it to figure out the reason why?  Is Christina Binkley not bright enough or is she protecting the homosexuals?