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Fashion Week & the Changing Face of Beauty


courtney love in milanWho could forget Courtney Love’s (pictured right) live performance at the Philipp Plein show in Milan? The Hole singer arrived on a conveyor belt, singing her hit song, Celebrity Skin. Equally dazzling was Marina Abramovic’s soulful direction of the Givenchy NYFW show. The artist paid her respects to the victims of 9/11 with an emotionally charged show that unfolded beneath One World Trade Center, just as the sun began setting, with the memorial of light commemorating one of the biggest tragedies faced by Americans. 

In a letter to Givenchy’s creative director, Riccardo Tisci, Abramovic stated, “The 11th of September is the most sad day in recent American History. As the artistic director, I want to create something respectful and humble… our choice of music, from six different religions, has the power to unite people without discrimination. The event that we are creating together is about forgiveness, inclusivity, new life, hope, and above all, love.”

The artist’s message of acceptance of diversity hit home with millions of people across the globe, but also expressed the zeitgeist of fashion week across all major cities. Over the past few years, we have seen a true celebration of difference on the catwalk, as symbolised by the models themselves. The seeds for the new wave of acceptance of reality were laid as early as 2006, when Spain’s Madrid Fashion Weekinsisted that only models with a Body Mass Index of 18 to 19.5, would be allowed to strut their stuff on the catwalk. Just as recently as March this year, a new law passed in France banned “excessively thin” fashion models, imposing fines and possibly jail time, to agencies and fashion firms who hired them.

beth ditto ny marc jacobsThe link between the fashion industry and eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia have long been debated. While eating disorders have been found to have a host of causes (which can include genetic causes and life experiences), many medical professionals believe that extolling unrealistically thin body types, can have dangerous consequences for a teen or young adult’s self-esteem. In 2011, the Council of Fashion Designers of America re-released its health guidelines, calling for greater awareness about eating disorders and recommending that models under 16 be banned from the catwalk. CEO Steven Kolb acknowledged to the Huffington Post, fashion is highly influential in many ways: “As Diane [Von Furstenburg, CFDA president] and I wrote in our outreach letter to the industry … ‘Fashion Week has become a powerful voice, which reaches millions of people across the globe and we should not underestimate the consequences of the messages that we send.'”

These efforts on the part of the movers and shakers in the fashion world undoubtedly merit due praise. Much more than a mere fad favouring curvy figures (supposedly propelled by celebrities like Kim Kardashian), the wave of acceptance of all body types is a concerted effort, made by organisations that make or break trends at will.

Some models that caused a big sensation at this year’s fashion weeks included Beth Ditto (who stunned the crowd at the Marc Jacobs fashion show in New York pictured left). It wasn’t her first appearance; the diva rocked the runway for Jean Paul Gaultier in 2010. At the Jacobs show, Ditto elegantly walked down the catwalk in a beautiful silky white gown with three-quarter sleeves and a low-cut neckline. She was delighted to form part of this fashionable extravaganza, despite once calling Karl Lagerfeld “a miserable old man.” She recently told The Advocate magazine: “I think it’s really cool that there are people like Adele on the cover of Vogue and Rolling Stone. It’s really important that people are talking about your body, because if they don’t, then you’ll never be able to break that barrier.”

downs model in nyAdditional highlights of fashion week included Aussie model, Madeline Stuart’s (pictured left) amazing debut at the Rockefeller Centre in New York. Stuart was the second model with Downs Syndrome to light up the runway. She was clearly thrilled to bits when the audience sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her and gave her a standing ovation! Stuart took the baton from Jamie Brewer of American Horror Story, who was the first ever model with Downs Syndrome to take the runway in New York.

It is, perhaps, only logical that fashion should return to individuality and shun Platonic ideals of beauty. Fashion always has been the most rebellious and visionary of industries and with models that constantly push boundaries of what can be considered beautiful, healthy, and happy, we are clearly on to a winning streak.

Article by Gemma Benson

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