Discursive Essay Size Zero Ban

As top Uruguayan model Luisel Ramos floated down the catwalk last month to rapturous applause from fashion mavens and front-row celebrities, she thought she’d reached a new career high.

The already skinny 22-year-old had been informed by her model agency that she could "make it big" if she lost a significant amount of weight.

Fashion victim

So, for three months she ate nothing but salads and greens and drank only Diet Coke in an attempt to reach the elusive ‘size zero’, so coveted by the fashion world today.

Minutes after stepping off the catwalk, after complaining she felt unwell, Luisel dropped dead from heart failure. The ultimate fashion victim.

Today, as London Fashion Week kicks off, the size zero model debate has reached epic proportions.

The question on everyone’s lips is not what the new skirt length will be for the coming season, but what the Body Mass Index (BMI) of the model wearing it will be.

This is calculated by taking your weight in kilograms and dividing it by your height in metres squared.


A BMI of 18.5 or below is classed as underweight by the World Health Organisation.

Sparked by a ban at the recent Madrid catwalk shows on girls with a BMI below 18 (a model who is 5ft 9in tall would have to weigh a minimum 8st 11lb to work), the Mayor of Milan is calling for a similar ban at the upcoming shows in his country.

Letizia Moratti is urging the fashion industry to change its stance on using "sick-looking" models, and asks the movers and shakers within it to promote a healthier body image to young Italian women.

It’s a move that one might have thought would be welcomed in the UK, following recent reports that anorexia and eating disorders among British women have reached shocking levels, with one in 100 women suffering from them.

And last week, there was mounting speculation that London would, and should, follow suit.

But, remarkably, as Lifestyle has discovered from exclusive interviews with designers preparing their London shows, this simply isn’t the case.

In fact, designers, models and industry big-wigs are making a point of speaking out against the size zero backlash.

Knee-jerk reactions

Hilary Riva, chief executive of the British Fashion Council (BFC), organiser of London Fashion Week, was the first to refute claims that London should follow suit.

"The BFC does not comment or interfere in the aesthetic of any designer’s show," she says.

Stuart Rose, M&S chief executive and a former chairman of the BFC, is of the same opinion. "I am very wary of knee-jerk reactions," he explains.

"Designers are not uncaring, and we have to leave it to their own common sense."

"Nobody would want to use a model who was unhealthy. I would say there has been a bit of an over-reaction.

"It is not a question about size specifically; it is a question about health."

As M&S is one of the main financial backers of London Fashion Week, what did anyone expect?

It’s ironic that one of their ‘faces’ — Erin O’Connor, standing at 6ft and weighing little more than 9st, would be hard-pressed to pass the BMI minimum test herself.

From public relations gurus to politicians, mayors to modelling agents, nurses to nutritionists — everyone, it seems, is having their say on the subject.


Everyone, that is, except the majority of designers accused of perpetuating the trend by casting ultra-skinny girls in their shows.

Only a couple have bravely voiced an opinion. Nargess Gharani and Vanya Strok of Gharani Strok, who are showing their Spring 2007 collection this afternoon, have said:

"We would never use a girl that we felt looked ill or had an eating disorder as we love our girls beautiful and healthy."

Kim Molloy, spokeswoman for Nicole Farhi, said: "We have never actually gone for the really skeletal models.

"We like to make clothes for a more womanly figure. For our models, the average [dress] size is eight to ten."

However, many of those scheduled to show their new collections on the London catwalks this week have been careful to issue non-committal "no comment" responses to requests for their opinion on the subject.


While none want to condone the measures taken by some women — including fasting and over-exercising — to fit a so-called ideal, there is a deafening silence over the issue of actually banning thin models.

You can almost hear the fashion world closing ranks.

Yesterday, as a flurry of casting sessions were being held in designers’ studios across town, most of those sending models down the runway this week were unwilling to put their head above the parapet, afraid of upsetting the all-powerful model agencies who could make — or break — their shows.

Some, however, spoke anonymously to LifeStyle.

"I have to make my samples in a size eight," said one.

"If I make them any bigger so I can use models that are more shapely, no one will use the samples in the fashion magazine shoots afterwards because magazines nearly always use size eight-or-under models.

"I cannot afford to lose that potential.

"Sample sizes are an industry-wide standard that will evolve slowly as the look changes — which I hope it does.

"But for the time being we must conform to the stick-thin image.


Another designer even criticised the public, who he says, are hypocritical when it comes to body shapes and sizes of models and celebrities.

"On one level, we’re vilified for using thin models on the catwalk. But women are the first to bitch about anyone who dares have an ounce of flesh hanging over their waistband.

"For me as a designer, I would never knowingly use a model who was anorexic, but the simple fact is that we employ these girls as moving coat-hangers.

"We’re not looking for sex appeal or to hold a mirror up to the woman on the street, we're trying to shift clothes to the store buyers, and I personally think that a slender figure is the best way to show them off."


But why, when nearly half the women in the UK are size 16 or over, can designers not get past the idea of beauty being all about size.

"I’m in the business of creating a fantasy," explains one.

"It’s a bit like a car manufacturer making a concept car at the motor show. No one expects to drive it."

Perhaps we should draw parallels here with that other fantasy world: Hollywood.

After all, no one expects to live the life we see in the movies. Away from the catwalk, are we to ban whippet-thin Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger, Paris Hilton, et al from our screens and celebrity magazines?

No. But we might make it our duty to learn from the aforementioned Luisel Ramos and the likes of Mary-Kate Olsen, Nicole Richie and Lindsay Lohan, who have all admitted eating disorders, and talk about the health consequences to those ordinary girls who aspire to mimic their look.

Since time immemorial, there has been a female ideal, be it ever-changing: from Botticelli’s curvaceous lovelies through to the flappers of the 1920s, back to the voluptuous starlets of the 1950s, the Amazonian supermodels of the early 1990s (an equally unachievable physique for most ‘real women’) and a current fad — which will pass soon enough — for pre-pubescent silhouettes.


Another designer, asked to comment on the idea of a ban on unhealthily thin models, simply laughed and said: "At least it keeps us all in the spotlight."

Many argue that Madrid and Milan’s tirade against skinny models was exactly that — a cunning ruse to get as many column inches as possible.

So, is the debate simply another way to get the designers’ latest creations on the front pages and the TV news stations?

Are the fashionistas laughing into their skinny lattes as they witness hardened hacks in ill-fitting suits trawling around for a juicy quote, revelling in the knowledge that — for another season at least — the pictures from their shows will be splashed across the world’s Press?

One good thing to come out of the whole sorry saga is the idea that we should be focusing on models’ health, rather than complicated BMI equations.

Sarah Doukas, founder of Storm, the London agency that discovered Kate Moss and represents the rangy Lily Cole among others, echoes this philosophy, commenting: "It is useless to talk about BMIs. Who knows what that means apart from your doctor?

"It depends on different body types. Some people have different muscle density. I believe that girls should just eat healthily, exercise and just be normal."

Sadly, London, as the rebel in the fashion pack, is still steadfastly refusing to follow in the Manolo-heeled footsteps of Madrid and Milan by banning favourites such as Erin O’Connor and Lily Cole from the runway, purely on the basis of a mathematical equation.

The debate will no doubt rumble on. One can only hope that it will not take another tragedy like that of Luisel Ramos to make London designers think twice.

See what our Fashion Editor thinks of size 0 models and get more fashion gossip in our London Fashion Week video out later this week.

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Size zero persuasive essay

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Size zero persuasive essay

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