The disorder problem: Completely old fashioned

On June 24th we learned that the T-shirt featuring the now infamous quote, ‘Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’ from British supermodel Kate Moss was axed by Hudson’s Bay Comp

On June 24th we learned that the T-shirt featuring the now infamous quote, ‘Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’ from British supermodel Kate Moss was axed by Hudson’s Bay Company, after it sparked a tirade of furious controversy on Twitter.

The quote, which was popularized by Moss during a 2009 interview, has continued to ignite anger with its pro-anorexia sentiments and perpetuation of the ‘Super Skinny = good’ societal views on beauty.  

History of Controversy

This story has haunting echoes of Topshop’s strikingly similar stunt, which threatened to jeopardise the firm’s image. Take a stroll down memory lane: In 2008, the retail giant was accused of promoting anorexia due to their sale of a controversial shirt, which read “Love my bones.” 

It stood as one of the store’s summer bestsellers, having been sported on celebrities, such as popular TV presenter and style icon Fearne Cotton.

Topshop quickly became engulfed in flames of uproar, with many consumers at the time, including recovering sufferers of eating disorders, asking why on earth Topshop had actually been permitted to create and stock such an absurd item in the first place. 

Cast your minds back to 2010, when Urban Outfitters, the American clothing giant also found itself embroiled in a similar controversy, generating mass outrage when it sold a grey v-neck t shirt sporting the words “Eat Less.” 

Many labelled the company as despicable, using insecurities and body confidence issues to manipulate impressionable young customers and encourage eating disorders.  

Of course, the clothing corporation is no stranger to such attention stunts, frequently banking on such outrageous designs in order to retain its ‘edgy’ reputation.  In January of this year for instance, the hipster retailer was accused of mocking depression after selling a black and white crop top, which had the word ‘depression’ written repeatedly over it triggering fresh backlash on social media.

Illnesses, Not Fashion Statements

It comes as no huge surprise then that Bay Company has stirred up such a storm, especially after having failed to learn from the mistakes of various clothing corporations. 

Is it any wonder people are angry when a retailer feels it is completely appropriate to embrace and promote the slogan, which no doubt encourages young girls to starve themselves? 

The saying is a well-known mantra for millions of anorexia and bulimia sufferers.  Why then, can’t the fashion industry grasp that eating disorders are not to be understood as fashion statements, but illnesses?

This calls into question, will the fashion industry ever cease to use mental illnesses as some kind of distorted fashion accessory, and if so, when? Why is it that the fashion industry fails to understand that inadvertently legitimising something that could be potentially dangerous simply isn’t hip or cool and never will be? 

How come the fickle fashion industry insists on displaying clothes on models that are six feet tall and pencil thin, when typical women are curvy and the average height for a woman is in fact 5ft 4 inches?  The average ‘ideal’ dress size of the British public is a 12. 

Today’s models weigh a shocking 23 per cent less than the average woman.  Yet, the fashion industry continues to promote an idealised, unachievable body image in line with the glorified dream of fashion. 

Anger and Repulsion

The anger and repulsion with this latest pro-eating disorder stunt was tangible on social media last week with comments of outrage pouring in from all over the globe. 

Twitter and Facebook users raced to describe the message as ‘scary,’ with many pointing out the fact Bay Company was undeniably choosing to actively promote body shaping and bad eating habits. And who could disagree? 

Well, the Canadian artist behind the shirt spoke out emphatically against the eruption of anger, claiming that the aim of his design was to mock the “absurd remarks” in the fashion industry.  

It’s difficult (understandably), for the majority of us to believe his defence  but perhaps much harder to understand why the fashion industry as a whole is simply not getting that promoting this message is not cool. 

Let us not forget that there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Last year, I stumbled across an article about a department store in Sweden that used normal sized mannequins, after gaining much acclaim on social media for reflecting real humanity. All hope is not lost!

However, in light of the fresh Bay Company scandal, it’s clear that despite apparent progress, the fashion industry still has an image problem.  If teenagers continue to strive to attain society’s unattainable ideal image, their feelings of inadequacy will simply be increased; there is no other outcome. 

Perhaps the reality is that we cannot change the fashion industry (not overnight anyway), but we must not let it change us.  

What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below.

Image: Flickr / Laura Lewis