When this image of Karlie Kloss appeared online for Vogue Italia in December, it was met with shock, disapproval and a wall of anger from the public. It was promptly removed by Vogue Italia’s editor, Franca Sozzani (although she later said this was a mistake) and was all but forgotten about. But now, in the light of Vogue’s renewed support of healthy body image, the photo is more poignant than ever.
In an announcement that will be featured in print in all the June issues of Vogue worldwide, the editors of all 19 editions of the magazine have come together to voice a “Health Initiative’ pledge, which intends to promote a positive female body image, by only working with models who are, in their opinion, healthy.
I would not want to speculate as to whether Karlie Kloss – a 19-year-old with what appears to be a naturally athletic build – has an eating disorder. Eating disorders are very complex things to talk about and it is unfair to brand any skinny person as suffering from one. However, as the above photo clearly shows, she is most definitely not representative of a healthy, normal physique, and for Franca Sozzani – who has been one of the editors most vocal on this issue in the past – to insist that Karlie is of a healthy weight here is frustrating. If this is Vogue’s opinion of a healthy young woman, I would not want to see an example of what they think is unhealthy.
The other points stipulated by the pledge are to never knowingly work with underage (i.e. 16 and under) models, and to ‘encourage’ the provision of healthy food and drink to be available on shoots and that models are not kept at jobs too late to have proper meals in the evening. For a publication with the influence and power of Vogue to merely ‘encourage’ that these guidelines are adopted by their affiliates suggests to me that their hearts just aren’t in this cause.
Alexandra Shulman shrewdly acknowledged that, “as one of the fashion industry’s most powerful voices, Vogue has a unique opportunity to engage with relevant issues where we feel we can make a difference.” I’m conscious that this power is going to be misused; the gentle encouragement and lukewarm approval of the cause will lose momentum soon after its initiation, and images like Karlie’s will continue to dictate to millions of women worldwide what is deemed as a beautiful, healthy aspiration. And even if there is a noticeable difference in their editorials, any achievement here will be quashed by the unchanging standards of the magazine’s featured advertisements.
I don’t want to completely discount efforts made by Vogue so far and by the CFDA in the U.S. and the BFC in the U.K., but I fear that at the end of all these words, action will remain elusive, and that the ‘normal’ woman will, as usual, be forgotten in the midst.
Content sourced from Journalism.co.uk. Photo source: GlobalGrind