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Tuesday
Jul122011

Codie Young, Chadwick Tyler & Topshop Join Size 0 Model Debate

The size 0 anorexic model debate has reared its head again, with Topshop removing the image above of Australian model Codie Young. Photographer Chadwick Tyler wasn’t behind the camera but entered the debate, writing a pretty scathing commentary to the Washington Post.

Topshopand replaced the first image, with this one below.

None of the issues in the Top Shop furor are any different than when this issue broke out big time in fall 2009, with Ralph Lauren photoshopping Filippa Hamilton so that her head is also bigger than her body.

In Filippa’s case, she was fired for being too fat as a size 4 US, and her Photoshop slimdown was astounding. Codie Young was not Photoshopped to be thinner than she is. As for photographers liking to portray women with heads bigger than their waists, what can I say? It’s a look.

Codie Young writes that she objects to being objectified in the discussion about her body.

I feel very hurt by the whole article and comments made by professionals such as Helen Davies “from UK anorexia charity beat” and Karen Easthall “from anorexica support group in Norfolk”.

Firstly I feel very hurt because these supposed professionals who deal with anorexic sufferers, everyday for the job/career. Are talking about me as if I’m not a real person (like I’m just a model used for them to prove some point) which is not the case I am a real person with real feelings just like everyone else and comments made by these people do hurt and affect me. So I feel its very necessary for me to say something!

Not only this but I feel its very unprofessional for two professionals such as these to ladies to accuse me of under eating and saying “The girl looks ill… I dread to think whats under her clothes” ‘Karen Easthall” she further added “There are tens of thousands of teenagers battling to overcome anorexica who could be affected by seeing pictures of dangerously thin girls being glamourised”, Helen Davies “For girls to see pictures of models who are this thin suggests that its okay to be like that, when its clearly not”.

Firstly this is very hurtful to me as I am naturally skinny; and anyone who knows me would know that I have been naturally skinny my entire life as my dad is 6’5 tall and skinny an my mum is also skinny, not to mention that my entire family on my dads side are all tall and skinny like me!

Models ARE Objectified Codie | Get Used to It

Unfortunately for Codie, she is objectified in the conversation, but in being a model, she has chosen to pursue a career that puts her under scrutiny. Codie Young is paid by business people who hold her up as an example of who women should aspire to be.  Codie could be an anthropologist or art critic or day care worker if she objects to being objectified. She has chosen the spotlight.

In becoming a model — and a visual example of the prevailing beauty standard — she de facto gives up a certain degree of ‘it’s not about you, Codie.’  You can’t expect people who see your images to have no response. I understand that for an 18 year-old Codie Young, this understanding requires a high level of maturity and human insights.

For certain the ‘hurt feelings’ of one model are not the focus of this conversation, because the fashion industry and popular media deal with millions of women every day as if we’re robots marching in step with the images we are fed. The purpose of editorials and advertising is to inspire us to buy, to consume, to jumpstart the global economy that is crashing around us.

Forgive me, but this conversation isn’t about Codie Young’s ‘feelings’, although I understand Chadwick Tyler’s indignation that many women have a visceral response to the first Topshop image. To clarify, Chadwick Tyler did not shoot this campaign.

Fashion Goosestepping

How dare women and medical professionals have a response different from the scripted one? Robots don’t respond; we just do as we’re told. Except that even though women’s mouths have been severely harnessed by the fashion industry in the last 20 years, we haven’t totally gone dead inside — not yet.

As for the top fashion blogs frequented by models and photographers, the commentary is pat. Any person who isn’t turned on by ribs and bones sticking out of a models body is ‘jealous’. Any commentary that questions our human response to the images that we’re seeing is forbidden.

I don’t even know Chadwick Tyler, except that he is frequently promoted on fashion blog bible and aesthetically beautiful Fashion Gone Rogue, where it is verbotin, verbotin, verbotin to ever — under any circumstances — make a statement about our visceral reaction to the images we are seeing.

To think and talk openly is not in our DNA. Top fashion blogs are like the Tea Party politicos, with one word in their vocabulary: no. These fashion images are a one-way street from media to consumer. If we’re not enchanted with what we’re seeing, it’s a reflection of our own insecurities that we don’t measure up. 

As for the photographer who has taken a strong stand in this disccussion, there is no doubt that Chadwick Tyler is an enormously talented photographer.

Reading more about him, I immediately came upon an interesting response to Tyler’s 2009 show ‘Tiberius’ in New York. These exceptional images of about 50 models are the focus of Coco’s Blog: A journey through Chadwick Tyler’s Tiberius.

Coco comes up with no answers or conclusions about the images, but her reflections are pertinent to the topic under discussion. Coco’s kind of thinking critically is blasted on blogs and fashion industry insiders. As professionals, we must admit that critical thinking about the meaning of fashion and images is typically censored.

I’m not saying I agree with Coco or not in her response to the images. What I do believe is that Marshall McLuhan was right when he said that ‘the medium is the message’.  Note also, that the writer analyzes the images from three points of view, always looking for the most positive vision of the photographs. She is no slouch blogger. I’ve picked one section of her essay, and you can read the rest on her blog.

Trying to put Tyler’s exhibit into the context of fashion is both simple and disconcerting. I looked at the images and asked myself, “What do these pictures have in common with fashion photography?” The answer is everything – except the soft sell. The girls are young and beautiful, but instead of placid expressions and flattering glow they stand half-dressed and covered in grime, harsh overhead lighting accenting every bone and angle. They aren’t thinner than other models (indeed, they are models and representative of the industry) but they look painfully gaunt. Vulnerability that, in another context, would pass as limpid or passive is suddenly tinged with madness and desperation. Common poses that might be hidden by couture and setting suddenly seem brutal, insect-like. I caught my breath: Was this fashion’s Dorian Gray portrait? Is this what every shoot would be if we took away the Pretty?

I immediate went searching for more information about Tiberius. I wanted to know what Tyler had to say, but could find nothing. I went looking for critical reviews but, outside of a fairly mindless press release and some very ass-kissy raves from the usual fashion suspects, I had no luck there either. All I had left was Tiberius himself.

Photographer~Model~Client Triad

Is it unfair to suggest that the model and client are Chadwick Tyler’s priority and not those of us who are seeing her images? This is just the reality of fashion media and words reflected from Tyler himself. Tyler says:

Ignorance is Bliss. This is a fine piece of Journalism (referring to a Washing Post article about Codie and TopShop. The only thing I see missing is the truth. I am sure you tried to contact Codie or her agent for comment. I am sure you are a professional, or sought the opinion of a professional that knows her personally. I thought the pancake link was a nice touch. But, wouldn’t that be bulimia? I have worked with Codie professionally in the last month and I can say that she showed no signs of malnutrition. This is simply defamation of character and you should be ashamed of yourself. The Post should be ashamed of posting this article. —Chadwick Tyler

When anorexia professionals weigh in on the topic, they are doing their job. To reject their voicing concerns suggests that there is no connection between body image, eating disorders and the aspirational images of popular culture. There is no piece of research to support that argument. If so, let’s get it on the table because the evidence is accumulating quickly on the connections between imagery and human response.

The only reason the case isn’t closed on this topic is because we can’t get a pure, uncontaminated sample of women. Like the cigarette industry still denying that cigarettes aren’t harmful to health, we can’t study women without countless other variables in play.

The Vacant Stare Model

As for Codie Young staring vacuously into space as asserted by the medical professionals, it is true that she has little expression in her face, but I don’t see it as a sign of anorexia.  I just spent considerable time in Google Images, and there is a detachment factor in 99% of Codie’s images.

Not to be a smart ass, but I don’t know if the model — Codie in this case — is supposed to represent a rarified world that is not ours, or we’re supposed to admire her from afar or we should model ourselves on her lack of emotive connection.

To be fair, many brands and media don’t look for a connection factor between the model and viewer. The industry has changed a lot in the last decade. Brands and fashion media often stress the aloofness and lack of engagement in their rarified world.

Lastly, this is how size 0 models look fierce; they scowl a lot. A smile would ruin everything. Kick-ass models like Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford and the whole gang had muscle tone and a certain degree of visible athleticism.

Many of today’s models work a different routine to avoid obvious muscle tone. We can’t say they are anorexic, based on their physical image.

I honestly don’t know the pov of the industry, although I’ve written extensively on Karl Lagerfeld’s preference for total lack of emotion in his imagery. I come from the world of Victoria’s Secret, where having the models connect with the consumer is important. And my world is the great 90s supermodels who made their fortunes by connecting with people in print and in person.

Having a wide variety of expressions and animation — including looking happy and joyful — was prevalent on the runway and in editorials.

Before the fashionista Nazis jump all over me (we have Nazis on all sides of this issue remember) I’ve written one favorable review about Codie and one not so great. In posting ‘Orient Excess’ by Nicole Bentley, I wrote that Codie lacked the sophistication for such a rich editorial. She looks like she was playing dressup in a sensual woman’s closet.

In covering her editorial with Oct 2010 editorial with Rosemary Smith (lower right above) , also lensed by Nicole Bentley, I wrote:

Vogue Australia delivers a romantic, ‘strange’ beauty to the pages of its Oct 2010 issue with a superb editorial by Meg Gray, lensed by Nicole Bentley and featuring Codie Young and Rosemary Smith. We’re not prepared to agree that the images convey anything more than a repressed sensuality but artistically and visually, then are fabulous.

Beating the Dead Horse of Size 0 Models

I hate beating a dead horse in this size 0 model debate, and I almost have my argument down to the elevator speech.  It’s my perspective that the industry deliberately shrank models to disempower and desexualize/desensualize women. The 90s supermodels were boss and too hot to handle. A trend I call Fashion Monasticism, advanced by Karl Lagerfeld, has carried the day and shows no sign of leaving us in the near future.

Truthfully,  I’m getting damn tired of writing about this subject, but of course I must. Readers expect me to weigh in on this topic; I can think of a few industry people waiting now for my response to this story.

What’s new since the Ralph Lauren-Filippa Hamilton Photoshop fiasco of Oct 2009? Have we advanced at all in the last two years? These are the changes that I see:

Franca Sozzani on Curvy Girls, Sensuality & More Body Types in Fashion AOC Sensuality

1. Italian Vogue editor Franca Sozzani agrees that the industry has a problem.

After a whole lot of pushback, and originally launching Vogue Italia’s petition against pro-ana websites, editor Franca Sozzani agrees that the fashion industry is a factor in advancing anorexia. That is a huge step forward because Sozzani originally rejected the idea. Having immersed herself in research and listening to experts — rather than editors, designers, marketing directors, models, stylists and photographers — Franca Sozzani agrees that she is part of the problem.  That’s the good news.

I don’t see any other reasons to believe that we’ve made any serious progress in the size 0 model debate, and I’ll save the really good reason for last.

Anorexia in Thirds | 1/3 Die, 1/3 Relapse, 1/3 Recover AOC Front Page

2. Facts about anorexia. Before either Chadwick Taylor or Codie Young jump down the throats of the parents of anorexic daughters (and a few sons) and medical experts, the facts about anorexia are very startling.

One-third of anorexia sufferers do die. One-third do relapse. One-third are cured — and medical experts agree that ‘cured’ is a difficult term to evaluate.

This is why the ‘feelings’ of Codie Young aren’t my primary concern in this discussion. While not an expert of any kind on this topic, I set out to disprove the 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 assertions about anorexia and haven’t succeeded in undermining the statistics from the NYTimes a couple months ago.

Personally, I believe this is why Franca Sozzani has come around to a new way of thinking on this subject. Consider also that the anorexia sufferer — who probably didn’t get that way solely because of fashion magazines — is known to be an avid follower of these images. She holds herself to look not only like Codie Young, but thinner.

Standing in front of her mirror, she typically sees volumes of fat, even when her BMI is 17 and dropping. Besides an inability to perceive her body size as it really is, the anorexia sufferer may well have a genetic component in her disease. No one is saying that size 0 models alone cause anorexia.

They are a facilitator and perpetuator of totally unrealistic body standards for women. In the years of the great supermodels, one-quarter of women could achieve their body size with weight management and exercise. Today only eight percent (and falling) of women worldwide can become a size 0 — if they want to.

Andrej Pejic | Gregory Derkenne | Citizen K International #59 AOC Private Studio

3. Andrej Pejic is new fashion beauty standard. I love Andrej from afar since I don’t know him, supporting his rise and versatility of looks and attitude. If Codie Young rarely connects with the viewer, Andrej Pejic is the exact opposite. For reasons I don’t understand, his studio shoot movie ‘Dark Narcissus’ didn’t get much play among bloggers. I wrote a passionately ecstatic review of his video performance.

‘Dark Narcissus’ is an outstanding creation with strong subliminal messages on many topics. The relationship between Andrej Pejic — who may be the most compelling model in fashion today — and his photographer are engaged in a visual dance. 

The styling, the music, the staging — everything is stupdendous.

This film should be expanded and submitted for art competitions in film. It could become a classic statement about fashion, female, mirrors, narcissicism, approval, self image, identity. All the elements are here, and I must say that Andrej Pejic just broke the mold in my playbook.

Just yesterday we posted images from Andrej’s newest editorial, lensed by Gregory Derkenne for Citizen K #59. Andrej is emerging as the new standard for feminine beauty. I adore Andrej but I’m not sure where that leaves the rest of us — only because the fashion industry can’t handle complexity. 

If the fashion industry would just diversify their body types, this entire argument would go away. Like the Teaparty, the response is ‘no’. No new taxes; no new models. No.

Business and fashion media want one look, one body type. We truly have made progress on skin color this past year. As for body type, we are stuck in the mud.  The downside of our obsession with Andrej Pejic (and it IS an obsession, based on our web traffic around Andrej) is that dear Andrej becomes the new gold standard for women.

4. Rise of Kate Middleton. What’s not to like about Kate Middleton? She is simply wonderful from all we’ve read and watched. These images published in today’s Daily Mail confirm the dramatic weight loss Kate experienced after the royal engagement was announced.

This is the nail in the coffin regarding size 0 models.

In an excellent example of what the media does next, because we simply can’t handle a diverse range of female body types, the Daily Mail — known for a ruthless preoccupation with women’s bodies —  also writes: Kate Middleton: A Waist (talk about objectification) that made Nicole Kidman look dumpy.

The Duchess of Cambridge has achieved the impossible. At the Batfa dinner on Saturday night in Los Angeles, she made the normally giraffe-like Nicole Kidman look almost in need of a pair of Spanx slimming knickers and a few weeks on the Dukan diet.

Though not even the most zealous body fascist could describe Kidman as large, when the actress posed next to Kate there was no doubt who was the more slender.

And this was Tinseltown — the place that pioneered size zero, the minature dress size that equates to a British size four.

There is no doubt that Kate Middleton will become the new beauty standard for fashion and women. Between Andrej Pejic’s popularity and Kate’s slimdown — coupled with the rise of the luxury market in Asia — the argument for more diverse body shapes in fashion probably won’t go far.

This image of Kate Middleton and Nicole Kidman causes me eat crow on my earlier assertion that Top Shop and Chadwick Taylor were off base in showing Cody Young with her head bigger than her waist. Clearly it’s possible to look that way without a Photoshop makeover. My apologies Chadwick, Topshop and Cody.

And the size 0 beat rolls on … Anne

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