Vogue Editor-In-Chief Anna Wintour and fashion designer Michael Kors were among the prominent speakers from the fashion industry who spoke about eating disorder awareness at the 13th Annual Public Forum presented by the Harris Center at Massachusetts General Hospital.
The forum, titled “Health Matters: Weight and Wellness in the World of Fashion,” was held at the Harvard Business School and focused on the actions being taken by the fashion industry to reduce the high prevalence of eating disorders among models.
Wintour highlighted the progress that the fashion industry had made over the last few years, including setting minimum age requirements for models, banning alcohol and tobacco backstage at fashion shows, and limiting working hours for young models.
She further urged professionals in the industry to “identify young women who could be suffering from eating disorders” and said “we are all responsible for the models’ health”.
American fashion designer and Project Runway host Michael Kors also commented on the trend of using young models for runway shows.
“The age of models really has to become a priority,” he said. “We need to give these girls a chance to grow up.”
Kors further pledged to not use any models under the age of 16 in his shows, a promise the audience greeted with a large round of applause.
“Having this conversation in an open forum is a huge step in the right direction,” Kors said. “We have to assess models as individuals”.
Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova was able to speak of her personal modeling experience to illustrate many of the issues Wintour and Kors had identified.
Vodianova, who first came to Paris at the age of 18 to pursue modeling, commented on the difficulties that many models face working at a young age in a foreign city.
“It is very hard to have a feeling of stability,” she said. “Anorexia is sometimes the only form of control these girls have”.
While the forum stressed advancement and increased sensitivity in the fashion industry, some attendees were more critical.
Harper Dangler, a resident of Cambridge, said he thought “it would take a while” before action was taken, primarily because “we don’t focus on prevention in this country and this is a disease that requires such action. This is not just a fashion issue.”
As the forum came to a close, Dr. Herzog, director and founder of the Harris Center, applauded the speakers. “The industry needs your inspiration and you’ve risen to the occasion,” he said.
Vodianova reflected similar sentiments.
“It’s in fashion now to be healthy,” she said.