Models are no longer staying quiet about their treatment by big-name fashion labels and social media is proving the most effective way for their voices to be heard.
British supermodel Edie Campbell has revealed this week how she was dropped from opening a Milan Fashion Week show at the last minute because she is “too fat”. She’s a size 8 with a 24.5-inch waist. Campbell shared the professional put-down with the world through two snaps on Instagram Stories as she chomped defiantly on a pastry.
As fans clambered to guess the identity of the label, its bosses presumably regretted not giving the model the coveted position they had hired her for. It’s unlikely they had warning of her plan to expose their actions to her 123,000 followers and yet it was also somewhat foolish to mess with Campbell, who has form for highlighting the de-humanisation of young women in the industry.
Last year the 28-year-old, who has been modelling since she was 15, called for models to have changing areas backstage at runway shows to end the demeaning norm of standing naked in front of hordes of strangers. In 2017 she told of the “ritual humiliation” of models and assistants in an open letter to WWD.
Rarely do problems faced by fashion models garner sympathy from the public. It’s easier to cede to the beast of the industry and dismiss its workers’ gripes as part of the small print for choosing a livelihood dependent on their physical appearance. But it’s not only an elite fashion minority facing body-shaming, indignity and disrespect, these issues resonate with young women and girls the world over - the same ones who follow the likes of Campbell and other fearless fashion voices on social media.
An ignominious start to the shows in Milan came days after Burberry publicly apologised for featuring a noose-knotted hoodie at London Fashion Week, after one of its own models shamed the brand on Instagram. “Suicide is not fashion,” Liz Kennedy wrote.
View this post on Instagram
@burberry @riccardotisci17 Suicide is not fashion. It is not glamorous nor edgy and since this show is dedicated to the youth expressing their voice, here I go. Riccardo Tisci and everyone at Burberry it is beyond me how you could let a look resembling a noose hanging from a neck out on the runway. How could anyone overlook this and think it would be okay to do this especially in a line dedicated to young girls and youth. The impressionable youth. Not to mention the rising suicide rates world wide. Let’s not forget about the horrifying history of lynching either. There are hundreds of ways to tie a rope and they chose to tie it like a noose completely ignoring the fact that it was hanging around a neck. A massive brand like Burberry who is typically considered commercial and classy should not have overlooked such an obvious resemblance. I left my fitting extremely triggered after seeing this look (even though I did not wear it myself). Feeling as though I was right back where I was when I was going through an experience with suicide in my family. Also to add in they briefly hung one from the ceiling (trying to figure out the knot) and were laughing about it in the dressing room. I had asked to speak to someone about it but the only thing I was told to do was to write a letter. I had a brief conversation with someone but all that it entailed was “it’s fashion. Nobody cares about what’s going on in your personal life so just keep it to yourself” well I’m sorry but this is an issue bigger than myself. The issue is not about me being upset, there is a bigger picture here of what fashion turns a blind eye to or does to gain publicity. A look so ignorantly put together and a situation so poorly handled. I am ashamed to have been apart of the show. #burberry. I did not post this to disrespect the designer or the brand but to simply express an issue I feel very passionate about.
“Let’s not forget about the horrifying history of lynching either,” she added. “There are hundreds of ways to tie a rope and they chose to tie it like a noose completely ignoring the fact that it was hanging around a neck.”
Kennedy says that when she asked to speak to someone about the “triggering” garment she was told “it’s fashion” and that she should write a letter. Feeling that her voice and experience had been dismissed, she outlined her grievances to a wider audience who did listen and empathise. As well as drawing attention to the glamorisation of a suicide tool, Kennedy exposed the gaping disconnect between influential bosses and their employees.
Ahead of Fashion Week, a Gucci “balaclava jumper” resembling blackface surfaced during Black History Month.
The item was immediately withdrawn with an effusive public apology from the luxury fashion house, along with a commitment to greater diversity. It took a while for the £682 autumn/winter 2018 jumper to get noticed, but it wasn’t a campaign, protest or newspaper article that brought it to public attention, it was Twitter user Rashida Reneé who sent it viral.
While online “shaming” is usually prefixed by “body”, “mommy”, “slut” or “single” and identified as sport for trolls, brand shaming is a powerful tool in the hands of the wronged and the overlooked; a force for good. The fashion industry needs to remember that it has nowhere to hide.