I don’t usually write about fashion – mostly because I consider Old Navy to be the height of couture. But once in a while a story will pop up that has implications far beyond the fashion world. Italy’s Fashion Week is going on right now, and Italian fashion line Nolita has used a picture of an anorexic woman on leaflets they’ve been handing out that say “No Anorexia.” An interesting message, but at first glance it’s confusing and seems like they’re promoting the disease, even though they’re trying to do the opposite.
“A photograph of a naked anorexic woman appeared on Monday in Italian newspapers and on billboards to highlight the effects of the illness during Milan fashion week while promoting a fashion brand. Written above the photo of the woman, used to advertise fashion group Flash&Partners’s clothing brand Nolita, are the words: “No Anorexia”.
“The picture was shot by the controversial Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani, who in 1992 photographed a man dying of AIDS for a campaign for clothing group Benetton. Toscani’s aim was ‘to use that naked body to show everyone the reality of this illness, caused in most cases by the stereotypes imposed by the world of fashion’, Flash&Partners said in a statement.
“‘Everyone says it’s ugly but I don’t think it is, it really brings the message home,’ said passer-by Giuseppina Ravelli after seeing the billboard in Milan. ‘The people who reach these kind of levels have such great problems it is good that they use their illness to teach others about it.’
“But the president of Italy’s Association for the Study of Anorexia, Fabiola De Clercq, said the woman used for the photo should be in hospital and the image was ‘too crude’. Far from helping women suffering from anorexia, the photo may make many of them feel envious of the model and determined to become even thinner than her, she said.”
It’s an interesting idea, but I’m not sure it’s good to put that picture out there when it’s directed at women with a distorted body image. Associating it with a fashion brand might add flames to the fire. It seems (and I may be naïve here) that Nolita is trying to do something good, but perhaps a better way to go about that would be to have a picture of a healthy, real woman on there. The idea is probably to shock people with what anorexia really looks like, but the people it’s aimed at probably won’t be shocked, they may be impressed, and strive for that extreme. Points for the idea, but not the execution.