Vogue and the thin edge of the pledge

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 May, 2012, 12:00am


The recent pledge by Vogue worldwide to ban models under the age of 16 and those thought to have an eating disorder is set to have a huge impact on the fashion industry. The ambitious pledge - dubbed the Health Initiative - runs in the June issues of the magazine in reaction to concerns over the rise of unhealthy body images and eating disorders in young women.

It wasn't always like this. The idea of the perfect body has changed dramatically in less than 20 years. And with the growing cultural power of fashion, it has affected not only the pages of magazines, but also Hollywood screens and television.

In the lead-up to the millennium, waif-like supermodels replaced 1990s 'Amazonian' supermodels such as Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford. Three years ago Kate Moss controversially proclaimed to industry publication Women's Wear Daily, 'Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels'.

But there seems to be an increasingly powerful public backlash against this kind of sentiment. The fashion industry has come under a lot of criticism lately for its apparent obsession with thin models.

Magazines have generally followed suit, routinely running photos of unhealthy looking models on the catwalk, and doctoring images to make bodies look impossibly thin.

So one should applaud the Vogue initiative, which is a rare move in the publishing industry. As an industry leader, it is in the position to effect a dramatic change in popular culture.

The magazine's health pact also aims to take greater care of younger models' psychological and physical well-being - which it hopes will set better standards for its readers.

The industry as a whole recognises that its reputation is being tarnished by risky and even dangerous practices, but we wonder whether any brands will follow suit in their advertising campaigns.

Will we see fashion labels, which have used thin or juvenile girls in past campaigns, turn around and pledge to promote a more realistic image?

Fierce competition between brands means that social responsibility is not a top priority. But this new Vogue policy is a big step in the right direction, and when it comes from one of the industry's most powerful publications, it sends a potent message.