It’s no news that models on the runway are skinny, but some of the models strutting in shows during Australian Fashion Week are so underweight, the event has been nicknamed “The Hunger Games” by industry insiders.
Revelers at the Mercedes-Benz-sponsored event, which began on Sunday and runs through Thursday, were stunned to see the extremely gaunt models chosen to showcase the Spring 2014/2015 collections. According to The Daily Telegraph, the girls cast in shows like Carla Zampatti and Alex Perry were among the worst, deeply worrying industry insiders.
"These recent Australian Fashion Week shows have been a misrepresentation of Australian beauty, and what Australian culture and lifestyle is all about,” Australian-born Kiara “Kiki” Reynolds, a stylist and creative director working in London, told International Business Times. “It sets unrealistic expectations of the way some women think they should look.”
Reynolds said overly underweight models in fashion are “not the type of image we want to portray to women, especially those coming into adulthood.”
“When I cast models for shows or shoots,” she explained, “they have to be over a certain weight or they don't get the job. I would never use ‘Hunger Games’ models.”
News of the “Hunger Games” models at Australian Fashion Week made international headlines after Marie Claire Publisher and Editor Jackie Frank was so stunned, she reportedly phoned the model’s agent to discuss her health.
“When I saw those legs I nearly died,” Frank said. “I felt I needed to do something; it just wasn’t sitting right with me. I was really worried for her, so I picked up the phone and called her agent … and said ‘why is that girl walking down the runway when she’s clearly not healthy?’”
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However, the agent reportedly assured Frank the girl was healthy. IMG, which organizes Fashion Week, said food was available for models and staffers all week, but it is up to specific show organizers to include catering.
Frank was not the only attendee who noticed the trend of underweight models. The Daily Telegraph cited a comment from journalist Mia Freedman, who wrote: “The hunger games — I mean, fashion week” following Zampatti’s show.
Fashionistas pointed out that some of the models who appeared the thinnest were from Australian-based Chic Management. Kathy Ward, the agency representative who provided the models for the Carla Zampatti show, said it’s a balancing act when casting models.
"We make sure [models] are fit and healthy and in the best position to secure the jobs," Ward told the New Zealand Herald, adding, "if they don't fit the sample sizes then they don't get the job.”
Others pointed out that 21-year-old Cassi Van Den Dungen of “Australia’s Next Top Model” fame looked dramatically thinner as she walked in the Alex Perry show, with protruding elbows, sunken cheeks and skeleton-like legs.
Van Den Dungen, though, fired back at her critics on Instagram on Monday, posting photos of food she consumed during the sartorial week of celebrations. One photo included the caption: “Love catering at fashion week. #lovemyjob #lovefood #iamwhoiam #dealwithit.”
The fashion industry has been widely criticized for its use of thin models. But one of the most shocking claims came last year from Down Under, when former Vogue Australia Editor Kirstie Clements revealed that some models eat tissues to stay thin. In her tell-all book, “The Vogue Factor,” she said some models also go on hospital drips and sometimes pass out from food deprivation, like one model who said she faints a lot because she is “always so hungry.” Clements said the goal of the girls was to be “Paris-thin,” a term used to describe an ultra-skinny model suitable for top French fashion shows.
According to The Daily Telegraph article, this “Paris-thin” trend is still alive and well, as many models are forced to fit in the European sample sizes, which are much smaller than Australian sizes.
“The girls have to fit the samples or they don’t get work. The onus is on the designers, who need to create bigger sample sizes,” an industry insider said.
But rather than to turn the focus on the industry and its flaws, activists like Frank are hoping international news of the “skinny models” will spur conversation.
“There are fantastic designers here this week doing incredible things, but that girl stood out and looked unhealthy,” Frank said. “The focus needs to be on the fashion, not the state of the runway models."