Supposedly this ad came out at the beginning of Milan’s Fashion Week; however, last Thursday was the first time it was bought to my attention in an article in Time Magazine and well, I was shocked, stunned and any other word you’d like to add.
Nolita, an Italian clothing designer, ran this ad in an effort to make a public statement about eating disorders on the fashion industry and using Oliviero Toscani, the photographer behind the 1980’s provoking and explicit Benetton ads, they did just that.
The problem of eating disorders has long plagued the fashion world, with the proliferation of super-thin models whom critics say not only harm themselves, but establish unhealthy role models for young female consumers.
The model? French actress, Isabelle Caro. And while I won’t state numbers on this blog because I don’t care for them (you can look at the article yourself), she’s very ill with anorexia and has been since high school.
Toscani literally stripped his subject, to show everyone through this nude body the reality of this illness, which in the majority of cases is caused by stereotypes caused by the fashion world, she said.
Tosani himself dismissed the ideas from organizations who thought that girls would take this image and use it more of a role model than an awareness by stating,
Looking at my ad, girls with anorexia would say to themselves that they have to stop dieting. When you do something extreme, there are always people who oppose it. It shouldn’t be the photos that shock, but the reality.
After doing this ad, he hopes the models in the fashion industry will never look like the waif-like, barely clad figures that they are today.
But while Italian public figures both in and out of the fashion industry supported the ad, when the ad ran in France at the start of their Fashion Week, the head of the French Couture Federation, Didier Grumbach found it appalling and said that winning notoriety through people’s illness is painful. What we’re seeing here in sensationalism by a label, to the detriment of an extremely serious social problem. This might sound childish, but DUH!
Now as I said before, I was shocked at this ad and obviously had a very similar reaction as Grumbach’s, but there are always two sides. I do believe that Nolita and Toscani had good intentions behind the ad, but eating disorders are very serious, highly misunderstood and too often overlooked and I don’t feel like this ad will be the awareness campaign that they wanted it to be.
Well for starters, even though Toscani says that he doesn’t think girls will use the ad as a role model of how they should look, you have no idea what they’re going to feel. Knowing from experience, anorexia is a very competitive disease and not to get better, but to be the best anorexic you can be. Yes, it’s horrible, but it’s the truth so depending on who sees this, it could have an incredible backlash that they wouldn’t want.
Likewise, even with good intentions, I think Toscani missed a huge part of the disorder by saying that he hoped people would see it and stop dieting due to the severe consequences linked with the disease. Sorry to tell him, but eating disorders are NOT about the diet. They’re NOT about the food at all. They are a coping mechanism just like alcohol or drugs and a way for someone to escape life so to say he hopes girls will stop dieting, that’s like telling an anorexic to just eat. Good luck!
Also the message itself doesn’t really tell the consumer anything. They said they wanted to promote an awareness to the fashion industry about the severity, but I feel in order to do that, the message has to be both clear, concise and catching. “No Anorexia” does not tell the consumer anything, but it almost a denial of the problem she has. Or if they’re trying to tell the fashion industry to be without anorexia, they need to do it another way because even though they don’t help the problem, fashion agencies do not produce eating disorders. Just like I feel like the media doesn’t produce eating disorders (but does produce body dissatisfaction), the fashion houses do not produce eating disorders. Of course, nowadays, many runway models are either sick or too young, but it’s still very much a disease and the reasons behind keeping the disorder tight are not just because someone has told them so.
Because this is such a complex issues that is misunderstood and misrepresented, I think that to create an ad that will be effective, you need to keep the conversation open between those who have had it, those who want to change our standards of beauty and those who don’t understand yet. I can only hope that it does happen and while I wouldn’t recommend this ad completely, somehow a marketing campaign should embody both and fun of fashion, the positivity of a healthy body image and the hope of showing diverse beauty.
What was your first reaction to the ad? What do you think a campaign wanting to raise awareness for this topic should include?