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German magazine bans professional models – 9 months on

Brigitte

Those of you who’ve been around for a while may remember I wrote a post back in October last year on how German magazine Brigitte vowed never to use professional models again and instead to recruit the people fopr its fashion shoots via a section of its website. The reason given was that they kept getting models that were too thin and unhealthy looking, forcing them to spend ages retouching the photos. I was sceptical for a mumber of reasons, the key two being:

  • They chose not to use their clout as Germany’s largest magazine to put pressure on the modelling industry to change and book more healthy models, instead sidestepping it altogether by effectively setting up their own model scouting business. This is really only possible for a big business and does precisely nothing to change the situation for smaller magazines, who may well want bigger/healthier models but don’t have the power to demand them.
  • Given that health was given as the main reason for the decision, it seemed odd to focus on changing the model-ness of the models, rather than on un-healthiness, model or not. The whole thing was couched in terms of model vs. real women. I still think that modelling takes skill and experience over and above looking good, which was all being chucked out for no apparent reason.
  • However, I was impressed that they at least committed themselves to doing this forever, rather than as a gimmick for one issue, and was looking forward to how it would go once all the brouhaha had died down.

Brigitte

Which is why I’ve now gone back and bought a copy to report back. So… the anti-model thing that bothered me so much in my original post is obviously still going strong, there’s a prominent circle on the cover saying ‘ WITHOUT MODELS’ and there’s a page on the inside with snapshots of some of the (non-)models reminding us that these are ‘real’ (ha!) people.

There are only two fashion stories in the magazine, and they both look great. If they didn’t mention you would never know that that the models were amateurs. There’s one holiday-wardrobe themed editorial and one called ‘I like your style’ where people pose with someone whose style they admire.

Brigitte

There are 15 people modelling (or not!) in the stories. When you look at them all, it’s striking how much they look like professional models, even in the ‘real life’ themed personal style story. All are very slim. Almost all are very tall. Only two are older than their early 30s (most are early to mid-20s). All are white and able-bodied.

Now I am perfectly happy for people in fashion stories to be slim and extremely attractive, and neither do I think that editorials need to reflect the make up of the population they serve one-on-one (though I do of course like a bit of diversity), but given all the rhethoric that surounded the decision, which completely pitted models against ‘normal women’ it seems quite bizarre and completely counter-productive to replace the models with their exact non-model counterparts.

Brigitte

But what bothered me even more is the type of people they are using. Out of the 15, only three were not working in the media or entertainment industries (two students and one retired person). In the holiday story, the model actually works at Brigitte as a fashion assistant, and the ‘I like your style’ one had several actors, photographers, a drummer in a very well known band, a make up artist, a boutique owner, and graphic designer, and so on and so forth. A lot of people who you would expect to know their way around a photoshoot. I am willing to bet a lot of money that these people were not in fact recruited via the website but were the friends and acquaintances of the magazine’s staff.

Again, I think this wouldn’t be that bad were it not for all the stuff they were saying about ‘real’ people being gorgeous and having the best style. Well, it seems that that applies only to those ‘real’ people that work in the creative industries! Where are the estate agents, the teachers, the administrators, the bakers and bankers? If I was one of the people that had applied via the website, I would definitely be disappointed.

Brigitte

So do I think this is a bad thing? Definitely not! But neither do I think it’s that much of a good thing, really. I remain unconvinced that this decision had anything to do with supporting either the readers of the magazine in feeling represented or preventing models being pressured into jeopardising their health.

What say you?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Marissa 2 August 2010, 5:19 pm

    Well that's unfortunate! I was hopeful when I first read about it that going amateur would mean incorporating a variety of different body types. Now it just seems like a gimmick.

    xo Marissa
    The Well-Appointed Catwalk

  • Audi 2 August 2010, 9:54 pm

    I guess we shouldn't be surprised; a lot of magazines feature bloggers too, but then you look and it's only the ones who look like models and are in their early 20's anyway. My guess is that this stunt is really more about money; it's a whole lot cheaper to hire amateurs versus professional models.

  • LyddieGal 3 August 2010, 12:37 am

    Of course they aren't going to use the real 'real' people — only the really young, pretty, well connected ones!

    I imagine they wanted the publicity, but still aren't willing to take a risk and use an everyday amateur. They've got an image to uphold here.

    Chic on the Cheap

  • Lorena 3 August 2010, 1:23 am

    How very interesting Franca.
    I personally like the idea but it was poorly executed.
    I also think that they should be photographed on the spot, like certain photo bloggers do, so they are pictured in their natural state.
    Not much styling, just real street wear.

  • Style Eyes 3 August 2010, 5:19 am

    I am a little indifferent to this idea. Great Idea in theory but I agree it is a bit of a publicity/ marketing stunt as the people that they are using might as well be models. Would interest me much more if they were real 'real people and more variety.

  • The Waves 3 August 2010, 3:10 pm

    My first thought was exactly the same as Audi's: professional models are expensive, and I wonder whether the amateurs get paid at all. It is worrying that the chosen women represent the glamorous end of the "real people" spectrum – be it their height, weight or profession.

    As for the decision to not use models at all; it is not the professional models' fault that the fashion industry is unhealthy. Young models don't have the time or the energy to think about whether they represent unhealthy ideals to others – they are concerned with their own bodies and getting work, so the magazine is, in my opinion, punishing the wrong people. They could have done so much better putting pressure on the modeling agencies they worked with previously.

    A good example of a good execution of the same idea is the Swedish designer Gudrun Sjödén's shopping catalogue. The current catalogue features very attractive "real" women, their ages range from 15 to 59, their professions from student to librarian, and there is even some ethnic diversity thrown in there.