Come 2010, you will not see stick-thin models in the pages of German fashion magazine Brigitte, but rather women from “real life” with “normal figures.” Brigitte plans to use a mix of readers and distinguished women in photo spreads for all sections of the magazine, and has already received responses to their call for profile submissions from interested women.
Among the first reactions to this announcement were tweets that said “About time,” “Getting rid of size zero” and “Does this mean I can also be a model now?” Amulya Shruthi, a creative solutions person with McCann Erikson feels that indeed it is about time that we have “real, honest measurements to measure up to; and to envy. It's a tiny, but meaningful step towards changing how we look at others. And at ourselves.”
Similar things were said when Glamour magazine published a non-airbrushed nude picture of Lizzie Miller showing a clear roll of tummy fat. Comments on the magazine's website were mainly about the thrill of seeing a beautiful woman who was also “healthy.”
Apart from thin models looking unhealthy, there is also, as Ayesha D'Souza, a young model without any aspirations of being size zero points out, the fact that “Women would like to see a model they can relate to rather than a model that makes them feel insecure and inferior.”
Thin is apparently on its way out with concerted efforts against size zero. Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman's private-public letter to prominent fashion designers condemning miniscule dresses; the Council of Fashion Designers of America's recommendation of a minimum age for runway models (16) and Spain's requirement that models be a certain weight (8 stones 11pounds) to be part of Madrid Fashion Week; the agreement between Spanish retail chains and the country's health ministry to increase Spanish shop window dummies to size 10 and the 2008 French voluntary charter on promoting healthier body images.
At Brigitte, the decision to ban models was not taken only because of complaints from readers about having to look at models with “protruding bones”, but also having become “fed up” of the “disturbing and perverse practice” of having to airbrush-fatten underweight models, as Andreas Lebert, editor-in-chief explained. Atul Chitnis, consulting technologist and founder of FOSS.IN, was “complaining about how some women these days were so skinny that they had become unattractive,” when his friend told him of the tweets. “My first thought was 'Well done, Brigitte!'.” Atul knows the importance of the magazine in German-speaking countries, and the impact it can have. Well, we have to wait and see how Brigitte's decision to “show women who have an identity” will influence the fashion industry, but whatever the model is, thin or otherwise, the photographer's eye and the lens of the camera will continue to size up and reproduce the model-image. As successful fashion photographer Aashith Shetty points out “Whether it's 'real' people or 'models' portrayed on print, they are both professionals - they get paid to act in front of the camera. It's an art. Sometimes to convey an idea you need the girl/boy next door and sometimes you need super glamorous.”
Are we being unrealistic when we expect the Brigitte ban to change things? Or is there an organic flow of opinion that goes from fashion magazines to designers and models and to readers, and vice-versa? Will the appearance of “real” women in its pages, including successful German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Steffi Graf, send Brigitte's sales soaring?