Tuesday, February 13, 2007

What's in Lily Cole's bag? Paying lip service to skinny models at London Fashion Week

It's Monday, it must be London. And thank heavens. It is cold and raining. Compared to New York however, it's like taking a warm bath. I've seen real cold and it wears a balaclava. Really looking forward to the Moscow Fashion Week edition of Fashion Season (just joking). Peter Jensen this morning sent out his models in some ninja-style, grey wool headgear that covered everything bar the eyes - dandy for New York, Moscow and Tehran, in the one hit. Just on models, what's happening with skinny model management?

The new, draconian regulations designed to rid the tents for perpetuity of those rascally, reed-thin runway stars who, it has been scientifically proven, are unilaterally responsible for prompting an infinitesimal percentage of the developed world's population to starve itself - while the 80 per cent remainder feels free to pig out?

It was precisely this time last season, that the words "ban" and "skinny models" were first uttered in the same fashion week breath when Madrid Fashion Week implemented a ban against size zero 0 girls following the death of one South American model.

As I arrived for the London shows in September, I spotted one UK paper really getting into the skinny swing with the headline, "Is Lily too thin for Fashion Week?"

I mean, Lily Cole, of all models - with the face of Blythe and the body of a Varga Girl.

Funnily enough, I have another Lily Cole moment en route from New York to London this season.

As I buy a bottle of water airside at JFK, I spot Cole and a model mate seated at a table a few metres away. I sit nearby, wondering whether there's even a remote chance Cole remembers me from two very haphazard encounters in 2006, one in Sydney, one in Milan.

I'm convinced that she has doesn't when, while speaking to a friend over the phone, she reads out both her BlackBerry address and US cellphone number in a loud voice.

As the duo stands up to head for the departure lounge, Cole expresses some concern that she might not get enough to eat on the plane.

"Have a salad" replies her friend. "You'll feel better".

Minutes later, Cole mysteriously reappears back at the table. She's come back to retrieve a plastic bag that she left behind on her seat.

There are several explanations for her behaviour:

1. It contained some personal property.
2. She suddenly remembered my face - or else experienced a flash of paranoia and was keen to avoid leaving any personal rubbish garbage lying around, for fear of generating a "What's in this celebrity's trash?"-type story, or an e-Bay sale.
3. It was a barf bag.

I know which one the tabloids would pick.

Between the spring and fall shows - prompted of course by a second model death, once again from South America - there have been non-stop skinny model think-tanks between fashion week organisers, with everyone keen to be seen to be talking the talk.

Of the four big fashion weeks Milan, which starts on Saturday, is so far the only one to have followed the lead of Madrid and implemented a ban - any model with a BMI under 18.5, in theory, will be fashionista non grata.

But are reps of the (Italian organiser) Camera Moda standing with pincers in castings right now, scrutinising body fat?

Will Snejana get yanked off the Dolce e Gabbana runway mid-money shot, only to be replaced with Megan Gale?

What exactly, you may well ask, is being done to ensure the ban is upheld?

Well according to a leaked copy of what I am being led to believe is the only directive to date issued by the Camera Moda to everyone showing at the event, apparently not a fat lot.

Here's a translation:
Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana


Fashion & Anorexia

To All Members

To All Companies presenting fashion shows at MMD

To All Press Offices

Their Offices

Milan, November 21, 2006

Prot. /CAV/cc/06

Dear Sirs,

In the light of the problem of models' excessive thinness, which recently reached its climax with the death of two Brazilian models, we would like to inform you that Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, the Municipality of Milan, represented by the Councillor for the Productive Activities, Mrs. Tiziana Maiolo, and the Councillor for Health, Mrs. Carla De Albertis, and Assem have established, since October 17, 2006, the "Fashion and Health" Board, which will meet regularly to address the issue.

Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana firmly believes that it must undertake useful initiatives to avoid that excessive thinness, regarded as a model, may help spread the anorexia trend; and in order to pursue such objectives, it considers fundamental the proactive collaboration of the entire fashion industry, from designers of famous brands to model agencies and all operators in this business, so that in their activities they will promote, through fashion, a positive model of beauty that follows the models of health and beauty that are typical of our country's tradition and culture. In fact, we believe that the promotion of the "Made in Italy" brand could be better spread by enhancing the Italian lifestyle and aesthetic models that are consistent with the "healthy and sunny" image of our country, which has helped spread Italian fashion around the world.

We are confident that you will share these principles with us and that, when choosing your models, you will pay special attention not only to beauty and professionalism, but also respect the "wellness and good health" values.

Thank you for your collaboration.

Best Regards,

The president
(Cav. Lav. Mario Boselli)

Anyway, highlights from day one in London?

Absolutely, the spectacular African print trapeze coats and lolly-bright silk shift dresses from Nigerian/Jamaiacan Duro Olowu. The urban sport collection from expat Australian Richard Nicoll - a smart, star-spangled and apparently Angie Bowie and US gridiron kit-inspired collection of fringed and laced shirts with builtin bustiers, crisp striped shirtdresses and cute 'bomber jacket' dresses.

Oh and House of Holland.

Last season Henry Holland, a journalism graduate, had a fulltime job as an editor on a British teen magazine.

On the side, he created some designer dedication Ts with chunky fluoro graphics and hilarious rhymes and sold them online.

When his mates, stellar Brit designers Giles Deacon and Gareth Pugh wore each other's shirts when coming out for their runway bows - Deacon in the "UHU GARETH PUGH" and Pugh in, "GET YER FREAK ON GILES DEACON" - a merchandising star was born.

Holland has only been in business for six months and already has done a range of shoes with Kickers and a T-shirt tie-in with Karen Walker - which she's selling (eg "WHAT A CORKER KAREN WALKER").

He is also talking to Vauxhall Corsair about a series of HOH rhyme cars and Mattel about a collaboration with Barbie. London Fashion Week commissioned a bespoke poem for the event. He's being feted like he's the next Warhol.

Holland made his runway debut in Monday's group Fashion East show with a collection of yet more slogan Ts - this time dedicated to well-known models - and some acid-bright House of Holland logo-emblazoned mens hipster jeans and clear plastic macs and capes.

Here's a selection of the slogans:






Is he surprised by his insta-success?

"I can't believe it - I've never even been backstage at a show before" squeals Holland backstage afterwards. "I think the reason the fashion industry likes them is because it's sending them up - having a laugh at them and with them rather than being a bit too serious".

Indeed. Holland is sporting another of his slogan T-s, this one emblazoned with the following words:


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