Last month, French fashion house Herve Leger made news not for its new collection, but because of a statement made by its managing director, Patrick Couderc. In an interview, he said that a bandage dress is not for the voluptuous. Couderc was later fired. This is not the first time someone has brought forth the unsaid rule of the fashion world — the thinner, the better. The truth is that internationally, sizes on the ramp are getting smaller, and curves are increasingly being looked down upon.
Luxury fashion house Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) has been accused of using anorexic models for its global campaigns. In April this year, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA: the self-regulatory organisation of the advertising industry in the UK) had banned an ad by the brand that featured a visibly frail model. The fashion house was also accused by the organisation of promoting ‘anorexia chic’ through its campaigns. More recently, even Victoria Beckham came under the scanner for using incredibly thin models for her runway show at the New York Fashion Week.
While in India, idealising and promoting extreme thinness through the use of anorexic models is not practised, designers do admit that international sizing charts (which are basically meant for western body types) are being used increasingly. “I don’t believe that Indian fashion is more focused on a thinner frame, but the Indian runway surely is,” says designer Nikhil Thampi, adding, “We have always aped the west, and the concept of thin models is usually ideal to please a buyer.”
Designer Nachiket Barve adds, “Internationally, over the last few years, sample sizes have become smaller and smaller. As a designer, one has to adhere to a standard runway sample size to ensure standardised fits for runway and editorial purposes. The sizes of most celebrities have also become the standard runway sizes.”
Although the situation isn’t as severe in India, there is some resistance faced by those demanding an Indian size chart. For instance, ace designer Wendell Rodricks has created a sizing chart to suit the Indian body type, which is slightly more voluptuous than the western frame, but his chart has still not been adopted.
“I have offered to do an Indian sizing chart for the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), but they have ignored my offer,” he says, adding, “Their designers do everything from European to UK to American sizing, depending on where the designers have studied. Basically, it is chaotic for the buyers and the clients. But no one wants to address this issue.”
Rodricks is one of the few mainstream designers in India who creates collections in four sizes — Slim, Medium, Voluptuous and Voluptuous Goddess. He’s happy his sizing “is for real Indian women, and not for Europeans who are naturally and genetically slimmer”. “We need an Indian sizing chart. Period,” he says.
Wendell Rodricks with Masaba (r) and Neena Gupta.
A few from the industry are of the opinion that several designers have already started creating inclusive lines that cater to women of all sizes. “Indian fashion is growing. Many designers are creating a good mix of anti-fit and shape-friendly designs to cater to all sizes. It would be great to see women of all sizes on a runway. But I don’t think one designer can bring about that change. However, if we, as an industry, work for it, it could be quite a revolution,” says Thampi, adding that he, too, is working on a new sub-line as an extension to his spring/summer collection that incorporates some “interesting designs that are fit for all sizes”.
Putting things into perspective, Barve adds that fashion, in the end, should make people feel good. “As a designer, I want to make women look good regardless of what their size is. I do this by incorporating flattering fabrics and silhouettes, rather than depriving them of stylish clothing just because they’re not a certain size,” he says.