Shannon Bradley-Colleary, a body image blogger, is garnering quite a bit of support for a Change.org petition she started a month ago to convince Yves Saint Laurent’s CEO Francesca Bellettini to stop using “seemingly malnourished” models in the brand’s advertising campaigns. After she saw a Saint Laurent ad in the March issue of Vanity Fair starring Nastya Sten and Natalie Westling, Bradley-Colleary took to her blog, The Woman Formerly Known as Beautiful, to share the following: “I think we’ve all become accustomed to seeing women whose bodies are simply animate hangers for clothing. But even with my high tolerance for ultra-thin models this one struck me as particularly cruel … I don’t want one more woman or girl to be damaged by the message this image sends. Which seems to be that frailty and uber-thinness is the Beauty Standard.” Nearly 50,000 people have signed the petition so far.
As for whether Bradley-Colleary’s goal of 50,000 signatures will have an affect on Saint Laurent’s “rock’n’roll” casting is unclear. Saint Laurent creative director Hedi Slimane, who is heavily involved in the casting for the design house, is notorious for using rail thin models. The Independent’s Alexander Fury commented on Slimane’s rebranding of the house since he took the reigns in 2012, including the skinny silhouettes and the skinny casting. Fury wrote: “[Slimane’s] Saint Laurent customers are skinny, first of all.” The Guardian also addressed Slimane’s preference for skinny, skinny models, saying, the Saint Laurent A/W 2013 menswear show “recalled Slimane’s own work at Dior Homme, right down to the incredibly thin models he favored there.” The UK publication further stated: “Cheekbones were hollow, shoulders were slight and legs, encased in leather or artfully ripped jeans, were shockingly twig-like.”
Other writers have referred to Slimane’s models as “manorexic” and as conflicting with the otherwise “healthy, athletic look” that models have been embodying. In fact, Slimane’s casting caused blogger Poppy Dinsey, the founder of website What I Wore Today, to speak out last year, tweeting the creative director a photo of a super thin male model on the Saint Laurent, along with the message: “Woefully irresponsible model casting at YSL yesterday. Speechless.” Dinsey further commented on the male model casting, saying: “The problem is, impressionable people across the world see these images and aspire to be like this – when it would take nothing short of starvation to achieve the same shape – and that’s forgetting they’re probably four inches too short to model anyway.”
I’d be shocked if this petition had any affect on the Saint Laurent casting, especially because the slim silhouette is so heavily intertwined with Slimane’s designs and his vision for the brand, where he has virtually all creative control. In addition to the garments themselves, Slimane designs the runway show sets, photographs the campaigns, and often even plucks from relative obscurity the musicians whose music is featured during the runway shows. We can wait and see if anything comes from Bradley-Colleary’s petition. More to come …