Denise L’Estrange-Corbet has come under fire for the quote above, and with fair reason. The co-founder and chief executive of WORLD is embedded in the fashion industry with the career she has chosen, so why is she choosing to perpetuate the unhealthy ideals set forth by the industry rather than trying to make a positive change or take a stand?
It’s a tricky thing, talking about what’s “healthy” or “unhealthy” in the world of fashion. I think it’s important to mention that being skinny and having bones showing is not necessarily unhealthy, everyone has a different natural body type. I’m sure many of us have that one tiny friend who never seems to put on weight, no matter how many slices of pizza disappear into their stomach. I’m making it clear right now that I don’t believe skinny = unhealthy. Nor do I believe overweight = unhealthy, bodies kind of come on a case-by-case basis. There’s no set formula here, which is what makes talking about it kind of convoluted.
The classic debate about what kind of message the fashion industry is sending out has arisen again, this time from Glasson’s mannequins with their ribs jutting out. Actress Emily Robins first posted an image of the mannequins on her Twitter account, after spotting them while shopping with her 17 year old cousin, saying "...I didn't want her to feel like she had to be that size to feel good in the clothes".
Anna Drijver, an Auckland psychotherapist specializing in anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating and overeating has called these mannequins “absurd”, saying “it absolutely will have a negative effect on young women - and young boys as well, actually. They see these images and assume that's what we should look like.” Although this body type does belong to people and there’s nothing wrong with that, she continued by saying "statistically that's not what society looks like so I think it's a terrible idea having such mannequins in the shops."
I wouldn’t have an issue with these mannequins, if there were other mannequins showing diverse body types. Then you could argue that you were celebrating different body types, and arguably all women. However, in my opinion, having your stock-standard mannequin being stick-thin and with visible ribs does imply that this is what you should look like to wear these clothes.
Sign backstage at Givenchy Haute Couture 2009 // Source
Denise L’Estrange-Corbet disagrees with me on this point, saying that the mannequins don’t imply you should look that way. She was quoted as saying "And I'm someone who can say that because I'm not thin, but I think it's not [telling people you have to look like that], it's just selling you the dream, it's marketing.” I think this quote is inherently flawed, as if “the dream” is what they’re selling you then the dream is looking like the mannequin, which means that in an ideal world you would look like that. Also, her logic that because she isn’t thin she can say that is the same as if I said I was allowed to be racist because I’m not white. In short – it’s fucked up.
"If walking past a store with a mannequin with its ribs showing is going to offend you or make you think that it's encouraging people to starve themselves, then I really think you may need to find better things to do with your life." Seeing these mannequins isn’t what offends me, I’m sure I see a lot worse daily on my strolls down Queen Street. What offends me is Denise L’Estrange-Corbet’s blatant denial that there’s anything wrong with perpetuating this “dream” and the fact that she won’t take a stand to support the people her industry panders to. By belittling people who disagree with her view, she encourages shutting down discourse about this and does nothing to aid the issue. All she’s doing with this quote is asserting the fact that she is better than you, and has found “better things” to do with her life.
Denise L'Estrange-Corbet & WORLD's vision // Source
It’s ‘”offensive” to me that her daughter, Pebbles, said “People who supposedly get influenced by mannequins at Glassons need to get a fucking grip”. I highly doubt girls walk past these mannequins and think “Shit, I need to look like that now!” but I do think that repeatedly seeing images like these mannequins eventually drills into people’s heads. Then stray thoughts start popping up about weight gain, self-image and “the dream”. These mannequins are part of a far larger problem, but trying to brush them off as if having an issue with them makes you an idiot is the offensive part of all of this. And If you can’t see this, I suggest that maybe it’s you that needs “to get a fucking grip”. (Thanks, Pebs)
Emily Robins looking unimpressed on Breakfast // Source
Chief executive of Hallenstein Glasson, Graeme Popplewell, defended the mannequins to Fairfax, saying it was the pose of the mannequin that emphasized the ribs and that “the mannequin’s BMI of 18.8 put it within the healthy weight range of 18.5-24.9”. I’m sorry, but I think it’s pretty fucking laughable that we’re giving a mannequin a BMI (and even if it wasn’t laughable, it’s obvious how close to the low end of the scale the mannequin’s supposed BMI is). Rather than trying to justify these mannequins with bullshit, let’s open up discussion about the ideals of the fashion industry.
These mannequins themselves aren’t a big deal; it’s what they signify that’s a problem and Denise L’Estrange-Corbet stating that the fashion industry is always going to be about the skinny illustrates exactly why we should be talking about them. It’ll take time to make any changes to the industry’s perception of beauty and “the dream” they’re selling young women worldwide. But if we’re not opening up discourse about this, how are we ever going to deconstruct these harmful ideals? Whether you agree with what I’ve said in this piece or not, talk about it. Only through open and honest discourse will we ever actively be able to make a difference. I think a common misconception with this whole situation is that people are upset with other people for simply having an opinion. Having an opinion isn't the problem, but not being willing to listen to another person's is. So, regardless of whether you agree with anything I’ve said or think I’m just another pissed off feminist with a skewed view of the world, tell me, tell a friend, tweet the world, I don’t care. Come on guys, let’s all get a fucking grip on this situation.