Fashion has never been a coherent industry: given its changing nature it constantly mutates mood, telling you that a certain colour or silhouette is incredibly in, only to suggest you shortly afterwards that it's time to ditch it in favour of something more original.
It comes therefore as no surprise that, just at the beginning of September, a group of French fashion houses including Dior and Saint Laurent stated they were banning ultra-thin models from their advertising and catwalk shows, even though, during some of the S/S 18 shows, it was easy to see that some houses were maybe not abiding to the rules.
The charter issued in September, right before New York Fashion Week, highlighted that companies were going to ban designers from using size 32 models under the French system (size XXS or size zero in the US; 4 in the UK), but were going to use women who are size 34 (US size 0-2 and UK size 6) or over (men must to be French size 44, internationally labelled as XXS). Powerful groups such as LVMH and Kering claimed they were also going to stop hiring girls under 16-year-old to wear adult clothes at shoots or events.
Before this charter, around May, a bill approved by the French parliament in December 2015, became law (set to take effect on Oct 1st): the law made it obligatory for models to present a doctor's certificate proving they are healthy. According to French law the medical certificate can go back two years; the charter signed by LVMH and Kering requires instead the document to be no older than six months.
Interestingly enough, less than a month later the promises featured in the charter were utterly shattered on a few runways, particularly during Anthony Vaccarello's YSL show.
Saint Laurent's S/S 18 presentation took place in the open air as night fell and with the Eiffel Tower lit up in the background, the perfect set and setting to fall in love.
Models donned shorts and super mini-skirts matched with billowing blouses, lacy tops and bras and leather jackets and fiercely marched on stilettos or fluffy hairy boots. The show closed with the girls clad in voluminous fabric or leather bubbles, while in between the men's looks featured shiny and sparkling jackets matched with skinny trousers.
In a way it was a fan interpretation of Saint Laurent's archives, but, as a whole, it was very Vaccarello, that means sexy and glamorous, erotic and exotic, oozing attitude but certainly not showing any tailoring skills (there were just a few pant suits for obvious tribute purposes...).
Yet there was something more disturbing than the clothes: most models were really thin, but some of them were extremely thin, something that genuinely made you think.
If very thin models are still allowed to walk down a runway, you wonder indeed what's the real meaning of the words "super-skinny models" for fashion companies - would that be a euphemism for anorexic?
Vaccarello's collection being praised by most critics (the very few left out there...) is another interesting point: leaving aside the fact that Vaccarello is a sort of one-trick pony focused on super-sexy mini-dresses and not much else and that his third collection for Saint Laurent does not show any kind of progress or evolution in any personal direction apart from a slightly deeper knowledge of the original archives (see the Berber jewellery donned by the models during the S/S 18 show, a detail that went almost completely unnoticed as most reviewers were distracted by the erotic glam on the runway...), the most annoying thing was maybe hearing critics focusing on sex and sensuality, without mentioning the matchstick legs walking in front of them. Does the silence about thin models on the runway mean that being sexy and sensual also implies being a size zero or that we may be promoting unattainable beauty ideals?
In a way it seems that Saint Laurent hasn't learnt anything in the last few months: earlier this year, the house was the centre of debates for its adverts showing a reclining woman in a fur coat and fishnet tights with her legs spread open, while another extremely thin model was photographed bending on a stool in a leotard and roller skate stilettos. In that case France's advertising authority denounced its adverts as promoting "porno-chic" and ordered the label to remove them.
Some of you may think that we shouldn't be so worried about the S/S 18 show, it was just another bubble of chic escapism, a tribute to Pierre Bergé, Saint Laurent's partner, who died on September 8, and a way to celebrate the two museums dedicated to Yves Saint Laurent opening in Paris and Marrakesh. So we will see some of these creations resized, readapted and recreated for a few cool celebrities who will wear them on the red carpet and most of us will forget about this show.
Still, while Saint Laurent transgressively put women in men's tuxedos as symbols of equality, here we are caging very thin women back in mini-skirts and while more mature women will laugh and think that those mini-skirts will only fit one of their legs, the impact on younger minds may be less satirical and more devastating. "Respecting the dignity of all women has always been both a personal commitment for me and a priority for Kering as a group," Francois-Henri Pinault stated in some interviews about the September charter. It looks like the dignity of women may be secondary to their health, to media revenue and financial profits.