Fashion is an industry often perceived as being fundamentally centred on promoting ideals of ‘perfection’.
But this is a fatal mischaracterisation.
I think, as someone close to its roots, I see fashion as being fundamentally about expression; of the self, of ideas. Of politics. More specifically, at an artistic level, it is about expressing the reality of these things - presenting them as they really are. Honesty. Rawness. And it is that honesty - that vulnerability that comes with raw expression - that truly should, and for the most part does, shape the concept of ‘beauty’ in fashion. But, unfortunately, this industry, like all industries, has had its growth fuelled by capitalist revolution, that brought with it the rise in commercialisation of products and, notably, values and ideals. And whilst this has this been incredibly productive for the fashion in a practical, industrial and economic sense, the modern push for mass production, marketability and standardisation has distorted many of fashion’s basic and underlying concepts, rendering them almost unrecognisable at this point:
The ideal of ‘the perfect body’ has been one of the many victims.
In recent times, the appearance and health of models has been drawn into the spotlight in both the fashion and legal spheres. A widespread rise in the commonality of issues such as body dysmorphia and eating disorders, and their connection with ideals being promoted in public media such as fashion runway shows and magazine covers, has put the industry under great scrutiny. Well-need scrutiny. This, along with specific controversies such as the death of model Isabelle Caro, has inspired many countries to take a legal approach in dealing with the issue. A year ago, France, home to the iconic Paris Fashion Week, made its peace offering by introducing legislation banning designers from casting models under a certain BMI (Body Mass Index) in runway shows.
But with lives being lost, and a new generation of young minds being shaped, one has to ask:
Is this really enough?
I was lucky enough to be able to interview international male model Anej Sosic, and ask him a couple of questions on his thoughts on the issue.
THE FASHION LAW CHRONICLES PRESENTS: ANEJ SOSIC
Why did you decide to enter the modelling profession?
I became a model for the adventure. To be able to travel and to explore...and of course, to be able to have the best and craziest stories for my future grandkids.
What is being a model really like? What do you think people misunderstand about the modelling profession?
Waiting. A lot of waiting… at the castings… agencies… subways… so it takes patience to say the least. There are a lot of misunderstandings about modeling… it is definitely not as easy as it may look to an untrained eye.
What kinds of pressures and unrealistic standards do models face in their profession?
There are many of them. From the expectation to be unrealistically thin… to be a certain age… to even fall within a certain race, which is truly unfortunate in this day and age. I think it's a "push-pull game"--
where sometimes we feel like we are moving forward, but. in reality, we are going two steps back.
How does this all affect the health of models?
Well, as we all know body dysmorphia is an issue that never rests... but there are so many more physical health concerns that can be equally as destructive, but are often overlooked. For example, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, anxiety, body overheating (this has happened to me before).
It is important to understand that during fashion week, models can have up to 10 castings a day - which basically means a 10, sometimes 12, hour day… walking all over the biggest cities in the world… mostly in heat during summer… or the cold during winter.
I can only imagine this is a terrible effect on mental health.
It's no secret that any and every physical and/or personal issue can lead to a mental one. Many models suffer from extreme anxiety and, in lot of cases, depression. We all start in this business so young, and mentally "under-developed" and vulnerable. Therefore, it is vital for agencies to understand the important role they have in "shaping up" a young individual in years he or she is most vulnerable. But, of course, many of these agencies see profit before they see a human.
Do you think the law has a place in mitigating these issues?
I do, absolutely. Some things have already been changed for the better - for example the recent laws banning designers from using extremely underweight models in many countries. But, if we look at the industry from an external perspective, there are many more changes that are required. Many models have horror stories that would keep you up at night… and the main reason why these awful things happen is because they are not protected the way they should be. Unfortunately, most times a "youngster" is the first to be taken advantage of, instead of being the first one that is coached and helped to protect himself from just that.