Washington Post fashion editor Robin Givhan recently wrote an article addressing the  hubbub over Karl Lagerfeld’s statements about round women and the idealization of thin models in general. She surmises that thin is ‘in’ because fashion represents a fantasy world where the exalted is the exact opposite of our boring reality : an increasingly obese populace.

Robin Givhan Thin Model Karl Lagerfeld

She says, “All those emaciated models have to be seen against the backdrop of a population that is overwhelmingly afflicted with obesity…The fatter the general population, the thinner the idealized woman. And for all the public posturing and blogging, the only force that stopped people from buying clothes and magazines was the souring economy, not righteous indignation over skinny models.” She concludes the piece saying, “Maybe all of the demands that editors and photographers just use heavier models have been misguided. Because before fashion models will get any bigger, people in general will just have to get smaller.”

Givhan brings up a good point, but I must ask you guys: when you see a designer, like Karl Lagerfeld, who makes no pains to diversify his runways and speaks out regularly against ’round women,’ are you less inclined to purchase Chanel? Will you hesitate to buy that hot Chanel lipstick, nail polish, or bag because you feel the brand doesn’t ‘represent’ you? Fashion is at its base exclusionary, but when it comes to consumers, I would hope all designers would be more interested in catering to the mass market, not just a tiny sliver of stick thin women. The more relatable, the better.

What do you think?

Oh and read the rest of Givhan’s article here.

8 thoughts on “Fashion News : Robin Givhan on Why Thin is In”

  1. I’m with Robin. I don’t wanna see every day women on the runway, on the tv and on the stage. It takes away from some of the reasons I like fashion and entertainment.

    I am however against those sickly looking girls with visible ribcages and nasty bony backs. Honestly I think that the glam-o-zons of the 90’s Tyra, Cindy, Heidi were more appealing than the boney models today, but I think that a less than common body type is more appealing than the average shape.

    Who strives to be average anyway?

    I do think the obesity is a problem and we SHOULD NOT ACCEPT OR EMBRACE something that is unhealthy.

    The only thing that would prevent me from buying a designer item is a racist comment and the price tag :)

  2. I understand Givhan’s point of view. The runway is a fantasy world, full on impossible weight goals for the average girl, and sizes that only 12 year olds should be (sorry, I tend to be pro-average size) However, I’m a size 12, and it pisses me off when people categorize me as being unhealthy. I stay in the gym longer than a lot of skinny girls. My friend is a size 2 and I can run faster and not get tired before her. Being a large size doesn’t make you unhealthy. You have to look at the family history, bone structure, body shape. Some people are naturally large, that doesn’t mean they are unhealthy. Everytime I hear about a designer doing something great for plus size women, I commend them, because yes, it’s not healthy to be obese, but the BMI is so overrated and a waste of time. People starve themselves to live in a fantasy world, why, because since size 00 women are glorified, the average woman feels inadequate. Is that fair? No. Is life fair? No. However, if the fashion industry wants to strive, they need to extend their size. Forever 21 did it. Richie Rich from Heatherette is planning a plus size line. Designers are making lines for Target and H&M that feature options that larger size women can try. Just because designers accept larger women, doesn’t mean they are promoting obesity. It just means that a size 16 woman or a size 22 woman can walk in a store and not feel judged just because she is naturally big. And for those that doubt the natural larger size, hello, you don’t know what a person’s background is so how can you say it’s not? Exactly my point. So, instead of judging me for eating a cheeseburger, go try one yourself, they taste great :)

  3. It’s not in designers’ best interest to cater to the ‘masses’. The main reason people are consuming their goods is due to the pursuit of dreams and fantasies. So don’t expect them to change, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

  4. I’m sure I’m in the minority, but statements like Karl Lagerfeld’s and that refusal to diversify runways 100% affects my desire to purchase a designer’s wares. I’m by no means obese, but I am thick (10/12)and I’m African American. Why would I want to spend my hard-earned money on an expensive accessory or article of clothing made by someone who would likeley find me disgusting if they saw me? His muse looks nothing like me, his models look nothing like me, and I am not the woman he designs for. The brand doesn’t represent me.

    9 times out of 10, people, esp. “our people,” buy these things just because of their name, disregarding what/who they represent. Why are you proudly wearing the product of someone who either ignores you, is disgusted by you, or laughs at you when they see you?

    I don’t think that including a more realistic image of a woman in modeling or clothing sizing is necessarily “embracing” something unhealthy. We are not all built the same. I know fashion sells a fantasy, and granted, I could be a size 8 if I really tried, but I’ll never be a 00 or even a 4. I come from thick-hipped, ample breasted women, so it’s simply not in the cards for me. So I don’t subscribe to the idea that designing for a thicker woman is promoting obesity. What does that even mean? After you hit a certain size, you don’t deserve nice clothes? That’s utter bull.

  5. As a high-end label, Chanel prides itself in exclusivity whether the exclusivity is created by high prices, small sizes, or only appealing to a certain population. For me, it doesn’t matter whether the models aren’t representative of my cultural background or if I’m thin enough to fit into Chanel sizes. The exclusivity factor that does effect me, however, is the price. So, in that sense, I do agree with Robin Givhan. I don’t think overly thin models has created some sort of rebellion against luxury brands, or the entire fashion industry for that matter. Time and time again, it has been proven that harsh economic times decreases the expendable budget of most households.

    In regards to Karl’s comments turning me off of Chanel, I must say that I think of Mr. Lagerfeld as a sort of crazy great-uncle. You love him dearly, but sometimes you just have to ignore his manic ramblings. He’s a fabulous artist and visionary in his own right. If I wanted someone’s opinion on a healthy weight I’d ask my doctor. If I wanted someones opinion on what weight was most attractive, I’d ask my boyfriend. Karl happens to be neither my doctor nor my boyfriend.

  6. i’m on the fence with this really….
    i do not like what Karl said, but i understand it sort of. not to mention he has a right to his own opinion.

    i think they (the industry) stick to one particular type of model because MOST things will look and fall great on them. in the real world.. real women with real curves, mommy’s bellies && so forth, honestly, can NOT get away with some of that stuff that graces the runway.And just because it’s made in your size doesn’t mean it is going to look good on you…. the bigger you are the more you have to think about if this is “right” for my body. however, being a full figured honey i was a little hurt by his statment, because it is comming from a man that i admire for cheer talent!!!. i am a size 16… depending on the jean. lol but i am not “round” either!!!! i have GREAT curves!!!! and what i think the industry should realize, or more ACCEPT is that all thick, full figured, && “round” women are not sloppy!!!! quite a few of us are very stylish! very well put together!!! and VERY into our pleasently plumpness. {lol}

    but for real, people need to stop looking for acceptance in someone else words… so what Karl said what he said! does that mean i wana throw up my food & over exercise to be thin?? HELL NO!!! because i love me for me!!! and i still love the brand & i still love KArl. so what the industry doesn’t want thicker women on the runway!! it sucks but no matter how mad we are, the contravercy will dwindle down & folks will still want the brand.


  7. When designers like Lagerfeld make statements like these it certainly affects whether I buy anything from their brand and here is why:

    I technically would fit the stereotype in which Lagerfeld is referencing (being that I am a size 2) but I still find it highly offensive. He may not be talking about me but is talking about my mom, friends and coworkers. What he fails to realize is not everyone wants to be thin and live up to that aesthetic. And as it was mentioned before there are different factors that determine your weight.

    Also it is very hypocritical for him to make these statements when he used to be obese himself. I cant imagine what he did to himself to get thin and to stay thin, I can guareentee its probably not healthy. So how can you criticize people for something you once were? Yes, fashion to some extent is based on fantansy but you can achieve that element while adding in diversity (size or ethnicity).

    In short I do not own any Chanel apparel or products and wont ever buy anything as long as he is designing.

  8. Robin makes a very good point, fashion is all about fantasy and the allure of what is often seemed as unattainable. With that said, what is seen on the runway is a direct relection of THAT world.

    Not even so called advertisements for the “everyday woman” represent every woman. I remember a couple of years ago when Dove had their “Real Women Have Curves” campaign. And women are so quick to say that phrase all the time. The truth of the matter is that a “real woman” is EVERY woman, NOT just one that has curves, or is considered thick or plus sized. I’m sure the models do not consider themselves any less “real”.

    The “average” woman does not exist, and people need to realize that. Especially with an ever increasing obesity rate, if that becomes the “average” woman then I will pass.

    I am petite, 5’3 with a shape (a small one, but a shape nonetheless) but I am not “thick”. If really skinny tall women are apart of fashion’s fantasy world and curvy women are apart of the “Real World” then what world does everyone else belong to?

    I think the messages all have room for improvement.

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