Anorexic is no longer a word associated with women models scorching the ramp.
No, even male models are beginning to look pathetically skinny. Yes, the buff 6-footer with six-pack abs seems to be out of the fashion world, increasingly. The man of the moment is an urchin, a wraith or an underfed runt, the last a disparaging term for small people.
AdvertisementThe chicken-chested, hollow-cheeked and undernourished were there on display in all their 'glory' in the recent men's wear shows in Milan and Paris. And the trend has followed the fashion pack back to New York, bemoans GUY TREBAY writing in New York Times.
Little over a year ago, in Spain, designers were commanded to choose models based on a healthy body mass index; physicians were installed at Italian casting calls; Diane von Furstenberg, the president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue, called a conference to ventilate the issue of unhealthy body imagery and eating disorders among models.
But nothing much changed among women. They remain as waiflike as ever. And now men too are shrinking, as it were.
'Skinny, skinny, skinny,' said Dave Fothergill, a director of the agency of the moment, Red Model Management. 'Everybody's shrinking themselves.'
This was abundantly clear in the castings of models for New York shows by Duckie Brown, Thom Browne, Patrik Ervell, Robert Geller and Marc by Marc Jacobs, where models like Stas Svetlichnyy of Russia typified the new norm. Svetlichnyy's top weight, he said last week, was about 145 pounds. He is 6 feet tall with a 28-inch waist.
'Designers like the skinny guy,' he said backstage last Friday at the Duckie Brown show. 'It looks good in the clothes and that's the main thing. That's just the way it is now.'
Even in Milan last month at shows like Dolce & Gabbana and Dsquared, where the castings traditionally ran to beefcake types, the models were leaner and less muscled, more light-bodied.
'The first thing I did when I moved to New York was immediately start going to the gym,' the designer John Bartlett said. That was in the long-ago 1980s. But the idea of bulking up now seems retro when musicians and taste arbiters like Devendra Banhart boast of having starved themselves in order to look good in clothes.
'The eye has changed,' Mr. Bartlett said. 'Clothes now are tighter and tighter. Guys are younger and younger. Everyone is influenced by what Europe shows.'
What Europe (which is to say influential designers like Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons at Jil Sander) shows are men as tall as Tom Brady but who wear a size 38 suit.
'There are designers that lead the way,' said James Scully, a seasoned casting agent best known for the numerous modeling discoveries he made when he worked at Gucci under Tom Ford. 'Everyone looks to Miuccia Prada for the standard the way they used to look at Hedi Slimane. Once the Hedi Slimanization got started, all anyone wanted to cast was the scrawny kid who looked like he got sand kicked in his face. The big, great looking models just stopped going to Europe. They knew they'd never get cast.'
'I'm not really sure if designers are making clothes smaller or if people are smaller now,' Long Nguyen of Flaunt magazine said in evident dismay.
Actually a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Americans are taller and much heavier today than 40 years ago. The report, released in 2002, showed that the average height of adult American men has increased to 5-9 ½ in 2002 from just over 5-8 in 1960. The average weight of the same adult man had risen dramatically, to 191 pounds from 166.3.
But the fashion industry is guided by its own whims. Nowadays a model that weighed in at 191 pounds, no matter how handsome, would be turned away from most agencies or else sent to a fat farm.
Far from inspiring a spate of industry breast-beating, as occurred after the international news media got hold of the deaths of two young female models who died from eating disorders, the trend favoring very skinny male models has been accepted as a matter or course.
'I personally think that it's the consumer that's doing this, and fashion is just responding,' said Kelly Cutrone, the founder of People's Revolution, a fashion branding and production company. 'No one wants a beautiful women or a beautiful man anymore.'
In terms of image, the current preference is for beauty that is not fully evolved. 'People are afraid to look over 21 or make any statement of what it means to be adult,' Ms. Cutrone said.
George Brown, a booking agent at Red Model Management, said: 'When I get that random phone call from a boy who says, 'I'm 6-foot-1 and I'm calling from Kansas,' I immediately ask, 'What do you weigh?' If they say 188 or 190, I know we can't use him. Our guys are 155 pounds at that height.'
For Patrik Ervell's show on Saturday, the casting brief called for new faces and men whose bodies were suited to a scarecrow silhouette. 'We had to measure their thighs,' Brown said.
For models like Demián Tkach, a 26-year-old Argentine who was recently discovered by the photographer Bruce Weber, the tightening tape measure may cut off a career.
Tkach said that when he came here from Mexico, where he had been working: 'My agency asked me to lose some muscle. I lost a little bit to help them, because I understand the designers are not looking for a male image anymore. They're looking for some kind of androgyne.'
Androgyne means someone having both male and female sexual characteristics and organs. That bitter comment says it all.