Don Draper and Peggy have their talents, but these days, advertisers can get really creative. From viral videos and imagery to the creative use of Photoshop, there's always another envelope to be pushed when it comes to getting the consumer's attention. This latest ad is a little bit of both, with a heavy dose of shock value, and thankfully, it's for a good cause.
Brazilian modeling agency Star Models has recently released an eating disorder awareness campaign featuring your typical fashion sketch on the left, and models photoshopped to look like a human version of the same on the right. And as you can see, it's quite disturbing. If you're familiar with fashion illustration, you know this sort of impossibly long-legged, waify figure is absolutely standard practice for almost all designers. It's an art, and we personally appreciate it as a beautiful step in the design process. But has it gone too far?
As many of you pointed out in the comments on this article, we have to give women enough credit not to take media imagery too literally. Barbie is a doll, not a person; these are fashion sketches, not a recommendation for what you should look like — right? Well, we're not so sure. While obviously adult women have the sense to differentiate between an artistic sketch and an actual human form, we can say from personal experience that there's a level of subconscious conditioning that affects girls and women when they see this type of imagery. It's the same effect as when you see a dress on display in a shop with the waist cinched in to create an extreme hourglass effect. The dress looks lovely like that, and hangs perfectly. But what happens when you go and try it on, and no amount of cinching will create the same effect, no matter how skinny you are? Maybe you won't buy the dress. And maybe you'll leave the shop thinking, hey, I could do to lose a few pounds.
It's a two-way street, and fashion can't be 100% responsible for your self image. You've got to work on loving your own body and differentiating between artistic forms and, well, life forms — for your own reasons. But at the same time, these images underscore another facet of the discussion on eating disorders. Our conception of beauty today involves imagery found not just in the media and on the runway, it also begins early in the design process. If designers are creating clothing based on sketches that look like that, it's not a big surprise that they select models that resemble the sketch. Sometimes that just means long legs and a slightly more slender frame, but sometimes, it gets taken to the extreme.
We're reluctant to give too much credit to what's clearly a highly stylized, almost cartoon-ish, form of drawing. And we have too much respect for fashion designers and their vision to dismiss the traditional, widely-used sketch at the drop of a hat. But these ads do make you wonder: At what point do designers themselves have a responsibility, as artists but also as creators of consumer products, to help foster a more body-positive society?
Images: Courtesy of Star Models.