Can Curvy Models Kate Upton, Crystal Renn Change the Face of Fashion?

on February 15 2012 1:43 PM

The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition cover went to model Kate Upton, whose star has been rising since she became a YouTube sensation for her Dougie moves last April. Of course, Upton's amazing good looks and dangerous curves do not hurt, either. The model is almost as well-known for her measurements (36-25-34) now as she is for that Dougie.

It is no surprise Upton nabbed the SI Swimsuit Edition cover. The model has been on fire lately, booking campaigns with Beach Bunny Swimwear, Guess? and Jenna Leigh lingerie; getting picked for big gigs like IMG's New York Fashion Week ribbon-cutting and the Daytona 500 Grand Marshal; and even igniting romance-rumors with professional football players (ahem, Mark Sanchez, ahem).

What is surprising is the newcomer's potential to change the entire face of of the fashion industry. Now that's sexy. 

Kate Upton, So Not Fashion

Kate Upton was born in Michigan and bred in Florida. The blonde beauty, who is also an accomplished equestrian, was discovered by a modeling scout after a horse show in her teens. In 2008, Upton attended an open-call in Miami and, at just 16-years-old, was signed by Elite Model Management that very same day.

Eventually, the 5-foot, 11-inch stunner moved to New York and caught the attention of IMG scout David Cunningham. When Cunningham brought Upton to the attention of IMG super agent Ivan Bart, it was anything but love-at-first-sight.

IMG represents the likes of Gisele Bundchen, Kate Moss and Heidi Klum - multi-million dollar models with size-0 frames. When Kate first came in, everyone at the agency thought I was crazy, Bart told The New York Times. She wasn't 'fashion' enough. But, he signed Upton anyway. The rest, as they say, is history. 

Kate is bigger than fashion, Bart said. She's the Jayne Mansfield of the Internet.

Others agree with Bart's assessment that Upton does not fit into any particular category in the modeling/fashion world today. I come from a business where the perennial question is 'Are you beautiful in a fashion sense or in a beauty pageant sense or beautiful-girl-next-door sense?' Stephen Gan, V magazine's editor in chief, told the NY Times. And I feel like, why can't we try to find something that's a little bit different? If you've ever looked at pictures of Jean Harlow up close, she had the same curves as Kate Upton, the same silhouette, and she was the definition of beauty at the time.

Is Buxom Back?

With Kate Upton scoring the SI Swimsuit Edition cover, all signs point to a new trend emerging in the fashion world. The 19-year-old is famous because of (and, to some, in spite of) her curves, going against the grain of 6-foot, waifish models who eat nothing but miso soup.

She's not your typical model, a friend of Upton's told The New York Post. She will eat anything. She's not assuming. She's not into herself. She's not very affected.

I never deprive myself. If I'm craving something once a week, then I'll go have it, Upton said Tuesday night at an event in Chelsea. Ice cream or whatever, I just eat the foods I like.

Upton is one of numerous A-listers gaining popularity for their voluptuous physique. Christina Hendricks of Mad Man is known for her ample assets, which she personally adores. I hope I'm not encouraging [breast augmentation]. If there's anything to be learned from me it's that I'm learning to celebrate what I was born with, even though it's sometimes been inconvenient. Having larger breasts has made it harder for me to shop throughout the years, but I've learned to love it. It's so bizarre that people are constantly asking if my breasts are real or fake, she told The Daily Mail's You magazine. They're so obviously real that anyone who's ever seen or touched a breast would know.

Lara Stone, who also flaunts copious curves, is ranked No. 1 on Model.com's top 50 women. Kim Kardashian's backside gained her not only magazine covers and a reality series, but also immense fame.

It is important to make the age-old comparison to timeless vixen, Marilyn Monroe. The pin-up was, and still is, considered the greatest American sex symbol to ever live; and she was a modern-day size-10! Monroe's measurements were as follows: height 5-feet, 5½-inches; weight 118-140 pounds; bust 35-37 inches; waist: 22-23 inches; hips: 35-36 inches; and bra size 36D. She is considered one of the most beautiful women of all time, though still a far-cry from modeling industry standards. 

Now, with Kate Upton landing on the cover of one of the most popular magazine issues of the year (USA Today estimated that the total number of readers of the 2012 SI Swimsuit Edition will come in at 70 million), it is clear that buxom is back.

Former Plus-Sized Model, Crystal Renn, Showcased in SI Swimsuit Edition

Continuing with the trend of curvy-is-in, the 2012 SI Swimsuit Edition also features an editorial spread of plus-sized model, Crystal Renn. Though some have noted Renn's weight loss for the issue, others are thrilled to see some girls with real, womanly bodies in the iconic mag.

This is the model's first-ever appearance in the SI Swimsuit Edition and fans were eager to express their glee. Crystal Renn looks smokin' in Sports Illustrated, tweeted @Refinery29. We're huge Renn friends at TheGloss and she's particularly stunning as photographed by Walter Iooss Jr. in Australia, reads a blog post on TheGloss.

Renn began modeling at 14-years-old but was told that she would need to lose almost a third of her total body weight to model professionally. After years of battling anorexia, Renn turned her life around. She gained 70 pounds and reemerged as a beautiful size-12 model.

Now, Renn is a size-8 and has appeared everywhere from Vogue, Elle, Vanity Fair and Harper's Bazaar to Jean Paul Gaultier's runway to campaigns for Dolce & Gabbana, H&M, Saks and Barneys.

I'd love to see [the fashion industry] open their eyes to the variety of women. That variety is what's beautiful, Renn has said. 

Changing Times 

Kate Upton's SI cover and Crystal Renn's SI spread come on the heels of increased scrutiny placed on the modeling industry. A highly-circulated article written by PLUS Model Magazine, detailed the dangerous standards in the industry today. 

- Twenty years ago the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, she weighs 23% less.

- Ten years ago plus-size models averaged between size 12 and 18. Today the need for size diversity within the plus-size modeling industry continues to be questioned. The majority of plus-size models on agency boards are between a size 6 and 14, while the customers continue to express their dissatisfaction.

- Most runway models meet the Body Mass Index physical criteria for Anorexia.

- 50% of women wear a size 14 or larger, but most standard clothing outlets cater to sizes 14 or smaller.

For New York Fashion Week, the CFDA, headed by Diane Von Furstenberg, issued new guidelines tailored to cull underage and underweight models from walking the runways. The new CFDA guidelines included ways models can stay healthy during New York Fashion Week 2012. It also included regulations like official-ID checks, to ensure that no one under the age of 16 walked the runways.

Von Furstenberg has pioneered the CFDA's Health Initiative for the past five years. These most recent guidelines take yet another giant stride in a conscientious direction. Designers generally produce only one sample size for the runway, and in the last decade there has been a dramatic downward shift in the sample size of some of the top design houses, Von Furstenberg wrote in her CFDA guidelines.

As a result, models are under increasing pressure to be thinner and thinner, and younger and younger. The industry's hiring of prepubescent-appearing teenage girls as models of adult clothing sets an unrealistic standard; hips and breasts, the curves that define the female figure, are absent. Some models have difficulty maintaining the body ideal as they move into adulthood and run the risk of engaging in unhealthy eating behaviors that lead to eating disorders.

While some models are naturally tall and thin and their appearance is a result of many factors... other models have or develop eating disorders. Although we cannot fully assume responsibility for an issue that is as complex as eating disorders and that occurs in many walks of life, the fashion industry can begin a campaign of awareness and create an atmosphere that supports the wellbeing of these young women.

The CFDA's campaign to promote the concept of a healthy mind in a healthy body is off to a great start and - with growing support from the fashion community - holds the promise of a healthier standard of beauty, she concluded.