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Skinny models

October 12, 2009

Iconic fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld has defended the use of ultra-thin models on the runway, telling a German news magazine that "no one wants to see curvy women."

Model at the Chanel show during Paris Fashion Week
At the recent Chanel show in Paris, thin was still inImage: picture alliance/dpa

Lagerfeld also said that the current backlash against skinny models was being fuelled by overweight women who resent being reminded of their weight issues.

"These are fat moms sitting with their bags of chips in front of the TV and saying that thin models are ugly," Lagerfeld said.

Woman holding up copy of Brigitte magazine
Starting in January, Brigitte will feature "real women" instead of modelsImage: dpa/pa

The head designer for Chanel made the comments in Monday's edition of German news magazine Focus. He was responding to a decision announced last week by top-selling German women's magazine Brigitte to forgo thin professional models. Instead, Brigitte's editors plan to feature real women they say represent more relatable ideals of beauty.

Lagerfeld slammed the idea as "absurd," arguing that the world of fashion is supposed to be about "dreams and illusions."

From 2001 to 2002, Lagerfeld displayed an iron will as he whittled some 40 kilos (90 pounds) off his frame in just 13 months. Since then, he has been outspoken when it comes to the correlation between fashion and size. In 2004, for example, he announced his irritation over a decision by Swedish retailer H&M to make his designs for a one-off collection available in larger sizes.

"What I created was fashion for slim, slender people," he said then, vowing never to work with the company again.

Debate has become hysterical, designer says

Fellow German designer John Ribbe was also quoted in Focus, saying the current debate about too-skinny models had become hysterical. "That's another one of those cliches, like saying that all models take drugs and get drunk at sex orgies," Ribbe said. "Ninety percent are totally normal, well-proportioned girls with less fat and more muscle, but who also eat pizza and burgers."

Karl Lagerfeld
Karl Lagerfeld

According to Brigitte editor Andreas Lebert, the average catwalk model today weighs some 23 percent less than the average woman on the street.

A few designers, however, are realizing that not all professional models have to be a size zero. A case in point is US model Crystal Renn, who recently released a book entitled "Hungry," in which she details her struggle to meet the demands of agents who told her to lose weight if she wanted to work.

Renn became anorexic in her pursuit to fit into the typical fashion mould before deciding that her health was more important. Now a voluptuous US size 12, her modelling career is taking off. She has been featured in fashion Bible Vogue magazine six times and walked the runway for designers such as JeanPaul Gaultier.

Renn is using her newfound stardom to plead for the world of fashion to recognize a multitude of beauty ideals - including women who are naturally a size two.

"All women bring something different to the table and we have to appreciate them all," she said.

Editor: Nancy Isenson