It’s a sad day for fashion when a computer-generated woman is modelling in lieu of a real human being, but had H&M decided to use a real woman to advertise their clothes, thousands would have recoiled in horror and sales would have slumped. Or would they?
H&M have sparked fierce controversy over their use of computer-generated models to sell swimwear and lingerie. The models on the website, though ostensibly diverse and unique, all exhibit the same conspicuous pose and appear to be of identical proportions. Proportions, incidentally, that are increasingly becoming impossible to attain and maintain, with many in the fashion industry deeming 37-inch hips as too “fat” for runway modelling. H&M have defended their actions, attributing their deceit to common practice in the fashion industry, claiming “This is a technique that is not new, it is available within the industry today and we are using it for our Shop Online on combination with real life models pictures and still life pictures.” Their sole motive, they asserted, was “to demonstrate an item of clothing,” clearly, without the annoying distractions of a real body underneath them.
Helle Vaagland of the Norweigan Broadcasting Corporation has criticised H&M’s actions, positing that, “this illustrates very well the sky-high aesthetic demands placed on the female body. The demands are so great that H&M, among the poor photo-models, cannot find someone with a body and a face that can sell their bikinis.”
In the past, British designer Giles Deacon has spoken out against the ethicality of using models with unachievable proportions stating that, “at a certain period in time, the fashion industry was portraying this image of a totally unrealistic woman, women who are not allowed to be themselves. It’s just all a bit wrong.” This allusion to the unnaturalness of stick-thin fashion models is mirrored in Adriana Lima’s preparation for the 2011 Victoria Secrets Show, in which she stated that for the 3 months prior to the show she was working out at least once a day, increasing this to twice daily closer to the show. Eschewing solid foods for nearly 2 weeks before the show, and subsisting on protein shakes, it rapidly becomes evident that maintaining a “statuesque physique” is near on impossible.
Those few who do happen to win the genetic lottery and embark on a modelling career are constantly undermined by the fashion industry, as younger and thinner models enter the fray. 19-year-old Karlie Kloss has been praised as the “thinspiration” of many pro-anorexia websites after modelling in the December issue of Vogue Italia. Garnering much negative criticism. Vogue Italia has been quick to delete the images deemed inappropriate.
Deacon continues, “I think [designers] were probably scared, if truth be out, that if they put someone who wasn’t ‘right’ on the runway or an ad campaign, that it would be a failure.” Demonstrating the difficulties of bucking the fashion model trend; using a model that does not fit the required proportions of fashion models could be disastrous for the designer and the collection, a risk which very few are willing to take.
Five out of ten of the world’s most lucrative models in Forbes 2009 all boasted a C-cup chest (Gisele, Adriana Lima, Heidi Klum, Miranda Kerr and Carolyn Murphy) which is an atypical cup size for modelling (discounting underwear modelling and plus-size). Understandably, models are supposed to be second to the clothes they are selling and should not to be too distinctive, lest they outshine the clothes they are modelling. Nonetheless, studies show that women’s confidence and body image reduces somewhat after reading fashion magazines and being exposed to impossible body image ideals, illustrating the effect fashion is having on women everywhere. Maybe it’s time the fashion industry lowered its sky-high standards and became a bit more real.