My Blog__ Fashion Harm Reduction

December 28, 2009 | By

I was reading New York Magazine today and apparently, France and UK are trying to do something about the slimming down of models in advertising. France has proposed a law to label any advertisement that has been photoshopped. The UK is down with this too. The Committee of Advertising Practice received a report from over 40 academic types recommending a ban on photoshopped ads geared towards girls under 16. "They've found a correlation between unhealthy behavior in youngsters exposed to digitally perfected models." People in power have started to realize that these images fuck with young girls identity and body image. (How about fucks with everyone's conception of femininity and women as a whole, but okay?)

A few years ago, I worked as a photo assistant for this Toronto-based fashion photographer. I was hired to assist him with a campaign for Grey Goose vodka. We shot real bartenders in their "natural" environments - shaking up Grey Goose vodka into classy drinks. It was really stupid. All the subjects were men, except for one woman. This lady was in her late-twenties, average weight with beautiful red hair. She was awkwardly conscious about having her photo taken and fussed over her make-up and body placement. After the shoot, I sat with the photographer as he transformed her body into a digital masterpiece. He brought in her thighs, her cheek bones, changed the size of her wrists and even elongated her fingers. He made her hair more vibrant, her dress greener and turned her lips into Jolie-esque pillows.

Later that day we got into a discussion about models. He told me that thin women are easier to use for fashion because the clothes hang off them. It's clean lines and less work for him - "lighting wise". Less work during the aftermath.

When we showed the bartender/model her revamped photo she was stunned, "Wow! I look amazing!" Did she realize how much had been done? Were we obligated to tell her? She seemed so god damn happy.

Our touch-ups on this woman were minimal compared to those that have appeared in recent Ralph Lauren ads, but what we did was still distortion. This is nothing new. At least it's being recognized as psychologically damaging. But is acknowledging a systematic fuck-up and labeling it rather than changing it any better? Isn't this just fashion harm reduction? Frankly, I find the idea of labeling photoshopped ads insulting. What's the point of producing something that we agree is damaging and wrong?

As Amy O'Dell said, "Regulations on Photoshop would hardly solve the problems with the fashion industry's representation of women. Though it's a start..." One small step for fashion, one tiny-sigh-not-really-a-sigh-kinda-still-pissed-off-sigh from women all over.

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