Designers systematically use shockingly skinny models in their runway shows. It happens every season and for Spring/Summer 2016, Victoria Beckham is the designer being criticized for the models that walked in her New York Fashion Week show. The Spice Girl-turned-designer is coming under fire for her S/S 2016 “show of skeletons,” as one Instagram user phrased it, referring to the cast of models in her show, which included runway stars (think: Julia Nobis, Marie Piovesan, Valery Kaufman, Maartje Verhoef, and Harleth Kuusik), as well as a lot of young, new faces.
Beckham’s social media following was not impressed with the casting, which was completed under the charge of former Prada “it” director, Russell Marsh. Fans have taken to the designer’s social media account to voice their disproval and concern regarding the casting, leaving comments including: “Jesus, why don’t you just get a motorized skeleton to walk down your catwalks and release these poor girls from this bloody torture of having to starve themselves for a job.” Another person stated, “You need to feed this girl… Please give her some food” – in reference to a photo of 17-year old, Peyton Knight (pictured below), the model who closed Beckham’s show. Beckham posted a photo of herself and Knight to her Instagram account, thanking the model for closing her show, which immediately began to cause conflict. Addition comments directed at Knight include: “She’s definitely not looking healthy at all” and “I hope this is normal for your body and you actually eat. Otherwise you are the reason for hundreds of thousands of eating disorders.”
Knight, a Missouri native, was discovered when she was 11 and graced the pages of W’s September 2012 issue when she was just 13. (As you may know, New York state has since passed a law requiring models under the age of 18 to be classified as “child performers” and thereby, giving them protection under the state’s Department of Labor. Moreover, the Council of Fashion Designers has included in its bi-annual Health Initiative the recommendation that its member designers/brands cast models age 17 or older). After just a week of shows so far this season (her debut season), Knight is becoming something of an “it” girl herself. She made her runway debut walking for Alexander Wang and subsequently walked for Beckham. (It is interesting that Wang is not receiving any slack for his casting of the same model. Maybe he is simply not on the radar of the same number of people as Beckham?)
And speaking of Beckham’s S/S show, British journalist Piers Morgan took to the Daily Mail to pen a thought-provoking article of his own about the casting of the show, and the vast influence that Beckham has in doing so. In his article entitled, “Stop with the skinny, miserable models Victoria – this is NOT how young women should look,” Morgan writes: “As the young models paraded one after another down the runway, they all seemed to share the same two identical physical traits. 1) They were painfully thin. 2) They looked painfully miserable.” He continues:
I don’t criticise the models. It’s not their fault. They were hired to do a job and the specific job for a Victoria Beckham show is quite clearly to portray an image of sullen, skinny young women … No, my issue is with Victoria. She’s not the naïve young Spice Girl I met back in 1999. She’s now 41 and a mother of four including a little girl of her own, Harper. And to borrow her own words, what bothers me is that all the young kids will see the photos from her new show and think that’s how they want to look.
And he doesn’t stop there. Morgan, who has a young daughter of his own, further states:
I have a lot of admiration for the way Victoria Beckham conducts her life, personally and professionally. But I don’t like the message she’s sending to young women. It’s not ‘cool’ to be miserable, or at least it shouldn’t be. Nor is it ‘cool’ to be so skinny your bones protrude … Victoria Beckham won’t like this criticism, but she should heed it.
This is not the first time Beckham has been criticized for her models. Despite a 2010 pact that she would not have size zero girls on her runway (and reportedly denying 12 models from appearing in her show because they were “too skinny” that same year), Beckham came under fire last season for using models there were shockingly thin.
Beckham does not seem too bothered by the criticism online, holding that her collection is one “for all shapes and sizes — I always say it, but I just want women to feel like the best versions of themselves.” To this, Morgan says: “This was not a show designed to make women ‘feel the best versions of themselves’ as Victoria claims.In fact, it was quite the opposite.”