Fashion - an industry ready for change

The unattainable ideal of the young, white model who is very thin and looks rather bored appears to be shifting

Though fashion trends come and go in the blink of an eye, the idea of what looks beautiful has been fixed for far too long. But, finally, the unattainable fashion ideal of the young, white model who is very thin and looks rather bored appears to be shifting.

With the current magazines full of ad campaigns featuring older celebrities and models - 40-year-old Helena Christensen for Agent Provocateur and 52-year-old Jerry Hall for Chanel - tackling other issues such as race, weight and airbrushing seemed the logical next step for magazine editorials. And this month French Elle offers three different covers of Monica Bellucci, Sophie Marceau and Eva Herzigova shot without make-up and image retouching.

Singer and proud size-18 Beth Ditto has already graced the cover of British fashion magazines Love and Dazed & Confused so far this year and is launching her own clothes line with high street store Evans; while size-14 model Crystal Renn - a regular face from adverts for high street chain Mango - has not only appeared in Australian Harper's Bazaar, Russian Vogue and i-D magazine, but also has a memoir, Hungry, about her experiences in the fashion world, coming out this year. French and Italian Vogue have always played - and provoked shock - with ideas about women and their identity.

Recently the titles featured a tongue-in-cheek shoot of the model Lily Donaldson appearing pregnant and smoking, women pictured in bandages as they recovered from plastic surgery and even a war on terror theme.

But Vogue Italia's black issue last year dropped the gimmicks to create a beautiful and ground-breaking magazine featuring only black models. The issue was so popular it sold out and had to be reprinted. It's easy to dismiss these brief yet brilliant appearances by women who don't conform to fashion's norms. After all, they wouldn't be worthy of comment if magazines and designers hadn't created such an impossible vision of female beauty in the first place.

While these covers and advertisements cannot erase the message that is sent to women by the typical images of perfection, they do show an alternative.

Showing women of different races, sizes and ages in fashion shows and magazines creates publicity and sales figures but also sparks debate. The more noise and fuss is made, the more chance there is of change.


Alice Fisher, style correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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