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Wednesday, 9 February 2011

A weighty issue

Lara Stone: a modern-day, gap-toothed Brigitte Bardot, Carine Roitfeld’s protégé; eight Vogue covers later, she has walked the runway for almost every major fashion house and fronted ad campaigns for Givenchy, Calvin Klein, and Hugo Boss. Thus runs the existing repertoire of the Dutch model, oh, and “she’s bigger than your average”.

Stone in Vogue
In the last few years, this 26-year-old has taken the fashion world by storm, cited as the next Kate Moss and, in a similar way, has become the most desired model to front the world’s biggest clothing campaigns. Today, her fresh, angular face adorns numerous covers and the minutiae of her professional and private life fill the bulk of the international press. Her engagement and marriage to Little Britain and Come Fly with Me's David Walliams kept her firmly in the public eye.

However, despite the frenzy incited by her outstanding natural beauty, the press has still dedicated an alarming amount of column inches to her (very normal size 8) weight and womanly bosom. Having temporarily attempted diet pills and, for a period, resorted to alcohol to numb the pressure of the size zero phenomenon, Stone has learnt to accept her body as it is.

Stone at Louis Vuitton AW10

Stone looked amazing in a busty dress in the Louis Vuitton AW10 catwalk, alongside womanly Elle MacPherson and Victoria's Secret model, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Her success so far shows a change in the mindset of the fashion world. After two decades of malnourished pre-pubescent girls padding down the catwalks, a handful of fashion houses are beginning to favour more womanly models to showcase their collections. After all, designers want their clothes to be wearable, and as Virginia Smith, the fashion market editor of Vogue quite rightly said, “Lara makes clothes look good.”

Take, for example, talent Mark Fast, whose spidery, skimpy body-con dresses became the ‘must have’ of 2009, gracing the wardrobes of Kate Moss, Rihanna and Alice Dellal. The press had a field day when Fast stomped three size 12-14 models down the runway at London Fashion Week in 2010, proving the versatility of his dresses. A furore was unleashed when two of Fast’s colleagues resigned the day before, highlighting, unfortunately, that the fashion industry still harbours unrealistic ideals and irresponsible prejudices when it comes to women’s weight.

Mark Fast LFW SS10

Yet, Fast’s courageous move marks revolutionary bravery that is beginning to penetrate the fashion industry. Women are coming to the fore to remind the largely brainwashed female public that it is acceptable to have curves; that it is unnatural to wear a size 0 Beckham-style jean.

In 2009, when Lizzie Miller posed nude in the September issue of Glamour US the blogosphere was inundated with worldwide discussions of her brave action. Some of the response was positive, some not so.

It seems that, despite the fashion industry’s enduring obsession with ‘thin equals chic’ of the 90s, heads are starting to turn and waistbands are being slackened due to the prominence of real, curvier women in the media. Love magazine featured a bare Beth Ditto for its launch issue and followed it up with a body issue displaying eight real-looking nude supermodels.

It seems that more than ever the industry is pushing boundaries. However, what concerns me is the recent dramatic change seen in the 'plus-size' model Crystal Renn, so celebrated for her stunning looks and womanly, curvaceous figure. A recent shoot in Vogue Germany shows her looking gaunt and thin. 

The transformation of Crystal Renn

In the bigger picture, the fashion industry still has a long way to go before it represents the larger part of women in today's society.