New York Fashion Week is a semiannual string of shows which take place in September and February used to showcase international fashion collections. New York serves as one of four locations in the world to hold a major fashion week, others being Milan, London and Paris. The gravity of this week-long event occupies the city and highlights the sense of style which already seems to embody the Big Apple.
New York City has an image shaped by shows like “Sex in the City” or “Gossip Girl” where young, beautiful people move through the city with an effortless elegance. This expectation that men and women are meant to be as skinny, fashionable and beautiful as their on-screen counter parts creates an unrealistic image for young students living in the city. Now underscore this impractical, not to mention unhealthy, ideal with a week centered around a fashion industry which has historically proven to promote unhealthy body image.
I recently had the opportunity to attend a New York Fashion Week event. Beautiful women modeled designer clothing on a staged set. A broad array of ethnicities and ages was present, but each and every woman was indisputably thin. This isn’t to say that every model present was following an unhealthy diet or workout regimen, but NYFW’s attempt to create diversity only highlighted the single characteristic that every model shared.
We must look not to the models — who are compelled by expectation to remain gaunt — but the designers themselves, who create and cast models with progressively petite frames. Though it should be noted that the societal pressures that influence young members of society begin at ages where individuals are not likely to be flipping their way through fashion catalogs, designers — as the driving force behind contemporary fashion imagery — must be held accountable for their role in the perpetuation of unhealthy body image.
As another year in fashion is marked by the first semiannual NYFW of 2020, we are reminded of the negative effects of fashion media. Unfortunately, the industry shows little movement towards a progressive, healthier body image. However, there continue to be small victories in the movement for a societal rethinking of body image. After receiving backlash concerning complaints that include the well-being and lack of diversity of its models, the 2019 Victoria’s Secret fashion show was cancelled as part of a decision to “evolve the marketing of [the company].”
While we slowly progress toward a more inclusive and healthy image, this fashion week serves as yet another reminder to subscribe less to the unhealthy image promoted by NYFW, and more towards one that ensures an industry that not only promotes a healthy image, but healthy models.
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A version of this article appears in the Monday, Feb. 18, 2020, print edition. Email Lucia Kassela at [email protected]