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.
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.
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.
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.
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?