by Lady Michelle-Jennifer Santos, TSR Founder & Publisher, Political Strategist and Strategy/Peace Negotiator with the UN Security Council Special Envoy to the Arab Nations
May 4, 2012 (TSR) – The editors of all nineteen international editions of ‘Vogue‘, the world’s top fashion lifestyle magazine, have forged a pact, called the Health Initiative, and was unveiled yesterday upon releasing their June issue of Vogue to use only healthy models on their editorial pages worldwide in an attempt to shift fashion’s approach to body image. Considered as the “fashion holy bible”, the magazine has a reach of 11,4 million audience worldwide, 89% of which are women and girls, and with an average 1,2 million average monthly online views, their most concrete efforts will now be focused on banning the use of models who suffer from eating disorders and those who are younger than 16 years of age. The pledge will also encourage mentorship programs and reasonable working hours for models.
Mr. Newhouse, a scion of the New York publishing family that privately owns the world’s most influential fashion title, in its announcement, recognizes that fashion models serve as role models for “many women,” and thus, he wants to ensure that the models in its pages “are well cared for and educated in ways that will encourage and help them to take care of themselves, addressing as many of the pressing issues relating to ill-health in the industry as can realistically be tackled.”
All 19 Vogue editions worldwide (American, French, Chinese and British editions, etc.) will officially launch and implement the new guidelines starting on their June 2012 issues with special editorials dedicated to the initiative (with the exception of Japanese Vogue, which will publish its editorial for July).
They agreed to “not knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder,” and said casting directors will be requested to check IDs at photo shoots and fashion shows, as well as for ad campaigns.
In line with the Health Initiative, the international issues of Vogue jointly pledge – among other things – to “work with models who are healthy and help to promote a healthy body image” and to “be ambassadors for the message of healthy body image”.
“‘Vogue’ believes that good health is beautiful. Editors around the world want the magazines to reflect their commitment to the health of the models who appear on the pages and the well-being of their readers,” said Conde Nast International Chairman Jonathan Newhouse in a statement.
Alexandra Shulman, who has been at the helm of the British Vogue edition for over 20 years, is among 19 other editors to have joined the pact, in a bid to stop the promotion of unrealistic body images explains in her editor’s letter, “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”, adding that the Initiative will “build on the successful work that the Council of Fashion Designers of America with the support of American Vogue in the US and the British Fashion Council in the UK have already begun to encourage a healthier approach to body image within the industry”.
Courtesy of Condé Nast International, this ground-breaking initiative manifesto comprises of 6 points:
1. We will not knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder. We will work with models who, in our view, are healthy and help to promote a healthy body image.
2. We will ask agents not to knowingly send us underage girls and casting directors to check IDs when casting shoots, shows and campaigns.
3. We will help to structure mentoring programmes where more mature models are able to give advice and guidance to younger girls, and we will help to raise industry-wide awareness through education, as has been integral to the Council of Fashion Designers of America Health Initiative.
4. We will encourage producers to create healthy backstage working conditions, including healthy food options and a respect for privacy. We will encourage casting agents not to keep models unreasonably late.
5. We encourage designers to consider the consequences of unrealistically small sample sizes of their clothing, which limits the range of women who can be photographed in their clothes, and encourages the use of extremely thin models.
6. We will be ambassadors for the message of healthy body image.
Models’ health – and especially their weight – has been a lightning rod the past few years, especially after the death of two models from apparent complications from eating disorders in 2006-07, but the focus, until now, has been on runway fashion shows.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America adopted a voluntary initiative in 2007, which emphasizes age minimums and healthy working environments during New York Fashion Week, and London Fashion Week designers sign a contract with the British Fashion Council to use models who are at least 16.
The primary fashion organizations in Italy and Spain banned catwalk models who fall below a certain Body Mass Index level, and earlier this year, Israel’s government passed an anti-skinny-model law.
“CFDA is pleased to see all the Vogue magazines unite in support of model health,” CFDA CEO Steven Kolb said. “This increased level of support makes the message of ‘Health is Beauty’ even stronger.”
All 19 Vogue editions worldwide (American, French, Chinese and British editions, etc.) will officially launch and implement the new guidelines on their June 2012 issues with special editorials dedicated to the initiative (with the exception of Japanese Vogue, which will publish its editorial for July).
A BRIEFING ON THE MOVERS AND SHAKERS WHO ARE PART OF THIS REVOLUTION
JONATHAN NEWHOUSE, Chairman and CEO of Condé Nast International
Jonathan Newhouse is Chairman and CEO of Condé Nast International Ltd., a subsidiary of Advance Publications, one of the largest privately owned publishing companies worldwide. This division publishes more than 128 magazines and operates more than 104 websites in 25 countries and markets around the world with brands such as Architectural Digest, GQ, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, W, Glamour, Allure, Self, Teen Vogue, GQ, Details, Lucky, Style.com/Print, Style.com and Vogue.
A native of New York City, he has lived in London since 1994 and acquired dual citizenship as a UK subject as well. Newhouse has been named an Officer in the Order of Arts and Letters of France, an honour awarded by the government to individuals who have contributed to the cultural life of the nation. Since assuming leadership of the organisation in 1990 he has directed the launch of more than 70 titles.
These days, Condé Nast looks to China, one of their top-5 international market, and hopes to drum up more business in the fast-growing nation. The push to the East started happening at a time when cuts are digging deep at Condé — from the closure of Gourmet and parent mag Cookie to double-digit job losses at its Midtown offices.
Since 2009, Newhouse said the success of Condé Nast’s magazines in China, which include Vogue, Self and Modern Bride in addition to GQ, has boosted the company’s global circulation over the past five years. However, the pace of the expansion will likely be slowed by the need for approval from China’s central government for each title it adds. Foreign publishers cannot operate there independently and have to do so with local publishing partners. Condé Nast publishes Vogue in China, for example, in cooperation with China Pictorial, a local magazine.
NOTE: OBE, an acronym for Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, is one of the five classes in civil and military divisions of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom and given by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Her Majesty marks her 60th Anniversary as a monarch called the Diamond Jubilee throughout 2012. The main event will also be coinciding with the Queen’s Official Birthday in the United Kingdom, on 4 June.
ANNA WINTOUR (OBE), Editor-in-Chief of USA Vogue
It had always been her dream to work for Vogue and she finally got a chance in 1983, when she got a job as a publisher there after talking to the editor of Condé Nast. She stayed in this role for 3 years, and then was chosen to become editor of British Vogue in 1986. Within a year, Wintour had completely changed British Vogue. She replaced a lot of the staff and gave herself more control than any editor had before. Finally, in 1988, she became editor of American Vogue. She immediately changed the magazine, and in her first issue, put an unknown model on the cover, in a pair of $50, but a very expensive t-shirt.
Regardless of any Hollywood interpretation and other demonization, Anna has a genuine passion for fostering young talent from Christopher Kane to Jonathan Saunders or Kate Bosworth. Anna Wintour grooms, delivers and should have a room full of trophies made out of people for her achievements. Most designers know that they need her approval to make a name for themselves in the fashion world. She made the careers of the likes of Marc Jacobs and Alexander McQueen.
In my personal point of view, she is a misunderstood. She is simply an Effective Multi-tasking Perfectionist, a huge requirement for leaders and visionaries. She has an impressive work ethics which you rarely see among people, esp. fellow executives, these days: She rises early everyday at 6.00 A.M. She always gets to fashion shows early and uses the waiting time to make notes or phonecalls. Her nickname “Nuclear Wintour” may be a good play on words – but all those who know her respect that priceless perfectionist streak, a great virtue to hone and to be aspired by trailblazers-to-be.
Anna is not a member of the CFDA, but meeting her is always obligatory. She works with the Council of Fashion Designers of America to support up and coming designers. If you want to get a glimpse of Anna in action, watch The Fashion Fund, a six-part web series that shows the process behind the most recent CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund competition, on Hulu. The 23-minute episode gives the background story about the designers applying for the Fund, with plenty of spliced interviews from members of the CFDA board and previously nominated designers nicely edited in. You can see what American-based French fashion designer, Joseph Altuzarra, the winner had to go through. Known for his tailored ready-to wear pieces, Altuzarra, gained the opportunity to launch his collection at J.Crew globally on www.jcrew.com last April 19, with the capsule line inspired by “French preppy style.” The first episode gives one the opportunity to watch Anna, a true professional and great at what she does, slice and dice the candidates.
Among colleagues, fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld says, “She’s honest. She tells you what she thinks. Yes is yes and no is no”.
She was awarded an OBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2008 for her services to both British journalism and British fashion in the United States.
ALEXANDRA SHULMAN (OBE), Editor-in-Chief of UK Vogue
Alexandra Shulman, OBE, is the British born Editor-in-Chief of the British Vogue . Known as a respected journalist rather than a fashion editor, she is one of the UK’s most oft-quoted voices on fashion trends. She took the helm of Vogue in 1992, presiding over a circulation increase to 200,000 and a higher profile for the publication. She was also was named “Editors’ Editor of the Year” by the British Society of Magazine Editors and is a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery.
In 1990, Alexandra became Editor of GQ magazine, where her objective was to raise its profile and make it appear more manly. When she heard Elizabeth Tilberis was leaving Vogue, she did not think she was an appropriate candidate for such a fashion-centered position and did not want the job. She applied after much press speculation, but was not sure she wanted to leave GQ where she had been successful. Alexandra thought that the photographers who worked for Vogue would be difficult to deal with and did not want to shift towards the visually-oriented at the expense of journalistic content. When she was appointed as Vogue’s Editor in 1992, Britain was in recession and Alexandra was interested in how fashion was shifting away from the aggressive, brand-dominated fashion imagery associated with the 1980s and early 90s. The Managing Director of Condé Nast, Nicholas Coleridge who employed Alexandra, felt that Vogue must be more relevant to its readership. She then employed new staff, broke down divisions between departments at the magazine and commissioned articles about real people’s lives. When Robin Derrick was appointed as Art Director, new photographers were employed. After working for UK Vogue in over 20 years, she has cultivated a magazine with a strong features backbone as well as a dynamic fashion vision that you see today.
Contrary to expectations, Shulman describes her own life as work-dominated and not particularly glamorous. Shulman’s hobbies include music, tennis and reading fiction. Her favorite author is Rosamond Lehmann, an avid fan of the Inspector Wallander novels by Henning Mankell and has interests in historic images by photographers such as Ansel Adams, Brandt, Weston, Lartigue and Brassai. She critiqued the Wikipedia entry on haute couture for The Guardian in October 2005, rating it a 0 out of 10. She plays the guitar and owns a Nissan Figaro and a Toyota Corolla Verso.
She was awarded an OBE in 2004 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for services to the magazine industry.
STEVEN KOLB, CEO of Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA)
As Chief Executive Officer of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), Steven Kolb oversees all operations and activities for the American fashion industry’s preeminent designer trade association and its affiliated charity. The Council of Fashion Designers of America, Inc, (CFDA) is an American not-for-profit trade association that leads industry-wide initiatives and whose membership consists of more than 400 of America’s foremost womenswear, menswear, jewelry, and accessory designers.
Kolb’s responsibilities include overseeing all member services, trade association activities, and philanthropic initiatives. He reports to and works directly with President Diane von Fürstenberg (formerly Diane, Princess of Fürstenberg), CEO of Diane von Fürstenberg Fashion House (DVF) and the Board or Directors, comprised of 27 of America’s foremost designers. The impressive CFDA Board of Directors is as follows:
Diane von Furstenberg, President
Michael Kors, Vice President
Marcus Wainwright, Vice President
Selima Salaun, Treasurer
Vera Wang, General Secretary
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Oscar de la Renta
Membership is by invitation only, and is open to Americans designing in the United States or abroad or international designers whose businesses are based primarily in the United States. Each year, the Admissions Committee meets to review candidates’ applications before making its recommendations to the CFDA’s Board of Directors. An affirmative vote by the Board is required for the election of each new member. To be considered for CFDA membership, a designer has to have been in business for at least three years, have two letters of recommendation from CFDA members, retail presence and positive editorial coverage.
People think all you need to be in fashion is scissor, colored pencils and a set of needles, right? Wrong. It’s just as hardcore cut-throat business just like any other business you wish to enter and start. One needs to do their homework, literally, very well. Applying to the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, for example, requires a lengthy personal essay outlining why you love fashion, how you got started, the ins and outs of your business, as well as a five and ten year business plan. “Clarity on what you want your brand to be,” Kolb stresses, “along with real talent is an ideal candidate.”
To get a glimpse of CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in action, watch The Fashion Fund, a six-part web series that shows the process behind the most recent CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund competition, on Hulu. The 23-minute episode gives the background story about the designers applying for the Fund, with plenty of spliced interviews from members of the CFDA board and previously nominated designers nicely edited in. You can see what American-based French fashion designer, Joseph Altuzarra, the winner had to go through. Known for his tailored ready-to wear pieces, Altuzarra, gained the opportunity to launch his collection at J.Crew globally on www.jcrew.com last April 19, with the capsule line inspired by “French preppy style.”
SARA ZIFF, Supermodel and Founder/Director of Model Alliance
Sara Ziff is the Founder and Director of the Model Alliance. She has worked as a model for over a decade, walking in runway shows for Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel, and appearing as the face of Tommy Hilfiger, Banana Republic, and Stella McCartney. She is currently represented by the Marilyn agency. Sara earned a B.A. in Political Science in May 2011 from Columbia University, due to her interest in labor movements and community organizing, which also helped reframe her view of the modeling industry.
In 2009, she co-directed and produced the the award-winning, documentary feature film Picture Me, which reflectively chronicles behind-the-scenes look at the modeling industry that also led her to begin work on the formation of Model Alliance, a trade organization to establish fair labor standards for models in the U.S. and aims to establish ethical standards that bring real and lasting change to the fashion industry as a whole. Model Alliance supports the enforcement of existing child labor and contract laws, promote financial transparency and redress for issues of sexual harassment to improve the American modeling industry by empowering the models themselves.
‘HEALTH IS BEAUTY’ MESSAGE AND BETTER ROLE MODELS WILL EMPOWER OUR WOMEN AND GIRLS AROUND THE WORLD
Self-deprecation has reached dizzying heights and young girls growing up today are finding it increasing difficult to like the way they look. Who can blame them as they flip through glossy magazines that showcase nearly anorexic supermodels who have been airbrushed into a look that is absolutely unachievable in reality?
The impact of the fashion world and mass media cannot be ignored. Our global society has created a largely unattainable and unhealthy standard that particularly affects impressionable young girls and boys. Parents are also partly to blame and need to take a look at healthier looking models. Many parents, particularly mothers, talk about “imperfect”, “fat” and “ugly” parts of their bodies in front of their daughters and sons instead of talking about health.
American supermodel Sara Ziff, who was discovered at 14 and has since founded The Model Alliance, dedicated to improving the working conditions of models, hopes the move will encourage other publications to get on board.
“The use of underaged models is linked to financial exploitation, eating disorders, interrupted schooling, and contributes to models’ overall lack of empowerment in the workplace,” she said. “We simply believe that 14 is too young to be working in this very grown-up industry, and we’re glad that Condé Nast International is making this commitment.
‘Most editions of Vogue regularly hire models who are minors, so for Vogue to commit to no longer using models under the age of 16 marks an evolution in the industry. We hope other magazines and fashion brands will follow Vogue’s impressive lead.’ she said.
A SNAPSHOT OF THE MODELING INDUSTRY
Model Alliance, a foundation that 29 year old supermodel, Sara Ziff started, came out when controversies like Marc Jacobs’ hiring of underage models shook the fashion industry and as the CFDA had enough concern to revise its healthy eating standards.
Together with fashion writer and Editor of the Model Alliance’s Daily Feed, Jenna Sauers, also a former model herself, sent out an anonymous online survey to 241 working fashion female models based in New York and Los Angeles where 85 models, who have worked in over a dozen countries, and several high-profile supermodels responded. Though slightly skewed and small as their average respondent age was 26 years old, it is still pertinent information for people to know, for models (and many women in various industries) do share several common concerns around the world.
They found that the majority of models begin their careers very young — most start working before age 16 and most models under the age of 18 are not supervised by a parent or guardian while on the job. For those who wish to have a serious career in modeling, like actors do, usually means moving to a new city, or even a foreign country, where their families may not be financially able to accompany them.
According to their survey, nearly two-thirds of models have been pressured to lose weight by their agencies. Eating disorders are not uncommon. Models report that drug use in the workplace is rampant. And more than two-thirds of models say they suffer from anxiety or depression.
Globally, many agencies and clients consider models to be independent contractors, rather than employees, and thus, lack health insurance coverage. Since the Model Alliance’s survey received responses from older, more established and financially stable models, we can hypothesize that younger models and foreign models, the rate of insurance coverage would even be lower, enough for those of who care for the plight of women and girls around the world, to be alarmed.
Even more disturbing, but unsurprisingly, with regards to women and girls in many industries around the world, sexual harassment and abuse at work is also of concern to many models which many agents ignore even when complaints are given. Backstage at fashion shows and at photo shoots, models are often expected to change in full view of photographers, stylists, assistants, and anyone else who may happen to be present. Nearly all models have experienced a “surprise” nude shoot or casting. A sizable minority of working models have experienced sexual harassment on the job. Just like Hollywood starlets, model agents even encouraged these women and girls to sleep with their harassers to help their careers.
No model has to tolerate any sort of unwanted or inappropriate conduct. No model has to feel pressured to undress. Sexual harassment, abuse, and assault are indeed no part of the “creative process.” It is of these reason that Model Alliance created service for its members called Model Alliance Support and even drafted the Models Bill of Rights:
HEALTHY THIGHS MEANS LONGER LIFE
It’s long been known that “pear-shaped” women with relatively large bottoms face a lower chance of being stricken by a heart attack than people who have a big gut, “apple-shaped” physique.
But for the first time researchers have investigated the implications of thigh size. The findings, based on 3,000 Danes whose health was charted for more than 12 years, suggest that doctors may have previously overlooked an easy predictor of cardiovascular disease.
In 2009, Danish researchers lead by Dr. Berit Heitmann, a professor of epidemiology at the Institute of Preventive Medicine in Copenhagen, published a study called Thigh circumference and risk of heart disease and premature death in the British Medical Journal. Funded by the Danish Medical Research Council, they set out to examine associations between thigh circumference and incident cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease and total mortality. They selected a random subset of adults, 1436 men and 1380 women, and examined them for height, weight, thigh, hip, waist circumference, and body composition in Denmark.
Here is the mention of the study at the American Show, The Drs. (Doctors):
The study, which needs some correction because a unit was wrong in table 1 as height should have been given as “Height (m)”, not “Height (cm)”, wasn’t designed to determine how thin thighs could lead to health problems, but the researchers have two theories.
One relates to muscle mass. Dr. Heitmann noted that the thighs represent one of the largest muscle groups in the body. She also pointed out that muscles contain insulin receptors to assist in the removal of glucose, or sugar, from the blood stream.
“It’s possible when there is too little muscle there are too few receptors to bind to the insulin,” she said. Poorly controlled blood-sugar levels could eventually lead to type 2 diabetes which, in turn, may cause cardiovascular disease.
The second theory concerns fat content. Dr. Heitmann said the lower body contains a special type of fat that produces substances known as adipokines which dampen inflammation and may help protect blood vessels from damage.
Independent of abdominal and general obesity, lifestyle, and cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure and lipid concentration, in other words, their results show that people with thighs less than 24 inches (60 cm) around face a higher risk of heart disease and premature death, even if their body mass index (BMI) is normal. Not only do model-skinny thighs mean less muscle mass (which may mean the body is less able to regulate insulin levels), but the researchers hypothesize that thigh fat acts as a “metabolic sink,” flushes the blood of harmful triglycerides (which raises your risk of cardiovascular ailments)
If further research confirms the Danish results, doctors may some day take thigh measurements as part of routine medical exams and prescribe lower body exercises to bulk up the thighs and reduce the risks of an early demise.
But before you go rejoicing your way back to McDonald’s, there seems to be no added benefit in having thighs any bigger than 60 cm. or 23.6 inches either. Dr. Heitmann said, “More is not necessarily better.” Eating right and moderation is always the key, folks.
While Condé Nast International said that there are no current plans for these guidelines to be adopted across the company, it is important to remember that even though not everyone gets to appear in Vogue, nor have its change of policies, every model and every magazine looks up to them as the standard (bearer), the “holiest of holies” in fashion magazine world.
In addition to agreeing not to knowingly work with models under 16 or with eating disorders, the Vogue pact says the magazines will help “structure mentoring programs” for younger models and raise awareness of the problem of model health. The magazines said they would encourage healthy working conditions backstage and encourage designers “to consider the consequences of unrealistically small sample sizes of their clothing, which limits the range of women who can be photographed in their clothes, and encourages the use of extremely thin models.”
Outsiders may not fully understand the implications of this pledge, but within the fashion industry, this is considered an earthquake.
Putting ‘health first’ as significant policy change in the future pages of such prestigious fashion magazine, this wind of positive change will certainly, without any doubt, have a domino effect in our societies and start building up people’s self-esteem by giving realistic image of what our women and girls (and boys) should strive for. This stance that Vogue, with all its 19 publications worldwide, is considered as a huge statement that will reverberate across all continents. It will only be a matter of time when its seismic power will cause a tsunami around the world.
Models are people too, you know. We must care and love them. They are just like us, and unfortunately, get more exposure to abuse and stress, due to the pressures laid upon them by what we have allowed to be in our societies. This pledge signifies that we need to start loving ourselves and our bodies, honor its beauty and gift. We can now add another layer to the meaning of “Beauty comes from the inside.”
This is an exciting moment in our history and a solid step that will benefit current and aspiring models, women, men, girls and boys, for generations to come. We now have a baton, so keep passing and don’t drop it. Let’s change our world and empower our women and girls.
Vive la Révolution!
AUTHOR: Lady Michelle-Jennifer Santos
Lady Michelle-Jennifer Santos is the Founder & Publisher of The Santos Republic, Political Strategist and Strategy/Peace Negotiator with the UN Security Council Special Envoy to the Arab Nations involve in brokering peace in the Middle East since 2011. She is the recipient of 2010 and 2011 Tripbase Blog Award for The Universal Fusionist. TRIPBASE’s judging panel for this category, represented a fair cross-section of political views and no bias entered the review process, reviewed hundreds of sites from across the Internet and was hand-selected her blog as the best ten around the world. Her blog has been featured in CNBC, CBS and AOL News and is considered in the TOP 10 ELITE RANK of all world politics blog. For her bio, click here.