A model on the catwalk at Alex Perry. Photo: Getty
When Jeremy Somers is casting models for his swimwear brand, it is literally slim pickings on the main runways at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia.
“We look for girls who are healthy, beautiful and who feel comfortable in their own skin,” said Somers.
“It can be very hard for us to find these girls, because out of the pool of runway girls for Australian Fashion week it can be slim pickings. We definitely don't want anyone too thin because we promote a healthy swimwear lifestyle.”
Somers, who is the creative director of swimwear label We Are Handsome, has a commitment to only use models of a minimum size 8 for his brand's shows, including one on Tuesday during MBFWA.
“We'd rather choose less girls and have the right girls for our look than choose girls that aren't right,” he said.
But some other designers showing at MBFWA are less scrupulous when it comes to setting a healthy minimum size for their models, according to a report on Tuesday.
“Shock at the parade of strutting skeletons” was the headline of a story in the Daily Telegraph that claimed models in the Carla Zampatti and Alex Perry shows were excessively thin.
Marie Claire editor Jackie Frank told the Daily Telegraph she was so shocked at the appearance of one model at Perry’s show, she telephoned the model’s agent about her health.
“When I saw those legs I nearly died,” she told the Daily Telegraph. “I rang the model agent and said ‘why is that girl walking down the runway when she’s clearly not healthy?”
Social commentator Mia Freedman posted the comment: “The hunger games — I mean, fashion week”, after Zampatti's show and others spoke of the pressure on models to fit into sample sizes in order to get work.
Industry commentators on Tuesday agreed that a couple of models on the MBFWA runways were very slender, notably Cassi Van Den Dungen and Nicole Pollard, who have both enjoyed success on the international show circuit, where girls are much slimmer than the usual Australian model.
But they said the overwhelming majority of models at MBFWA were of a healthy weight, and if a girl appeared to be too thin or unwell, she would not be allowed to walk in a show.
“There is no excuse when there is a too-skinny model,” said Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival chief executive Graeme Lewsey.
“If it happens we and the (modelling agencies make sure that girl doesn’t' walk. It is the job of the agents under occupational health and safety work safety legislation to really look after those girls. If a girl is too slim or not feeling well, it is up to the agents to manage that process. I believe that many of them do do that, and over the years I've seen that happen and its been managed very well.”
At the Ginger & Smart show on Tuesday morning designer, co-founders Alexandra and Genevieve Smart said they had casting and catering protocols in place to ensure the well being of their models.
“We've both got young daughters so we are very conscious of making sure that the girls on our runway are healthy,” said Alexandra Smart. “When we are casting we are thinking about that and our stylist is thinking about that because we want to put across a healthy image with our brand.”
The Ginger & Smart backstage area included a table filled with croissants, yoghurt, fruit, foccacia and juices.
“We have lots of food and the girls eat really well,” said Genevieve Smart. “The first thing they said when they arrived at 4.30am this morning was 'where's the food?'”
Lewsey said the skinny model debate often obscured other equally important issues in modelling.
“Its not just about body shape and size, it's also about ensuring a diversity of nationality and age on the runway as well. In our VAMFF we had 39 different nationalities on our runways a couple of weeks ago, and that's something we're really proud of.”