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I remember writing a review of Project Catwalk during its first season and jokingly photoshopping a pair of devil horns onto Julien Macdonald’s head after he made one too many nasty comments about the contestants.
In early episodes of the show, it quickly became obvious that the Welsh designer was filling the Simon Cowell role in the show, a comedy villain who loved nothing more than tearing the contestants to shreds.
And it seems nothing changes. Madonald will soon return to our screens, this time judging models, not clothes, in a new series of Britain’s Next Top Model. And whilst the show has a new look and a new face at the helm – Elle Macpherson – one thing it will no doubt be recycling is Julien’s tendency to spout unnecessary vitriol.
This week’s gem? Well, apparently, “If you’re a size 14 in room full of size eights – you’re in the wrong room.”
It seems ‘larger’ women are the current target of the man behind many a skimpy little party dress. Wales Online spoke to the designer about the new series of Britain’s Next Top Model and asked him if plus size models would be given the opportunity to compete (following a win for a US size 12 model the American version of the show). His response?
“This is a serious show. You can’t have a plus size girl winning – it makes it a joke.”
Indeed. I know I laugh frequently at Crystal Renn, Hayley Morley and co. They’re just frickin’ hilarious. Also, I’ve seen BNTM and the one thing it’s not is serious!
Macdonald goes on to justify his comments by explaining that being a plus size girl in a skinny girl’s world is difficult. So we’re to believe he’s trying to save wannabe plus size models the embarassment and humiliation? I’m not convinced.
“It’s not fair on them – you’re setting them up for a fall – I know what would happen to them afterwards. They are looked down on, they’re frowned upon.”
Frowned upon by who? Not by the editors of US Glamour, French Vogue, Tush, V or any of the other magazines that have featured curvier girls in recent issues. Not by Mark Fast or Jean Paul Gaultier. Even Karl Lagerfeld, known for his hatred of ‘big’ girls, has begun to realise just how stunning more voluptuous women can be, using Crystal Renn as a model for Chanel and working on a plus size shoot for V.
Macdonald may pretend he’s doing girls a favour by sparing them the ‘pain’ later on. But what he’s really doing is pandering to a terrible part of the industry that makes any girl above a size 6 or 8 feel inferior and overweight. He’s making nasty, hurtful comments about women who don’t deserve it. By all means say “plus size girls have a tough time in an industry that traditionally favours slim models”, but to call the inclusion of a plus girl on BNTM a ‘joke’? To say they have no right to be in the same room as straight-sized models? For me, that’s taking it too far.
Surely a man who’s been vocal about banning women who’re underweight from the catwalk should know better than to attack the alternative – curvier, healthier women who look like they enjoy life. Most plus sized models aren’t even classified as overweight due to their height, so you can’t even use the ‘health’ argument. Bashing plus size models is just an easy bandwagon to jump on to get a few column inches.
When I read Macdonald’s comments, my thoughts soon turned to Debenhams, for whom he designs clothing, accessories and homeware under the ‘Star by Julien Macdonald’ label (see pictures).
Debenhams have – up until this point – really impressed me with their move towards a more inclusive approach to fashion. As a high street store, they cater to the size 14-16 average British woman, so it’s been a great initiative to trial size 16 mannequins in some stores, cut down on airbrushing and use models of all shapes and sizes in advertising campaigns. Making fashion accessible to the average shopper is a great move, and Debenhams are trailblazers.
So how would they react to one of their designers making such ill-advised comments about size 14 women (who, might I add, are not really plus size). I approached Debenhams for a comment, and sadly what I got was a bit of a cop-out.
“Julien Macdonald’s comments related to the fact that most sample sizes within the industry are a size 6 or 8 making it more difficult for plus size models. In fact, the Star by Julien Macdonald collection at Debenhams ranges from a size eight to size 20,” said Ruth Attridge, spokesperson for Debenhams.
Well, Macdonald may be happy to pocket the cash from sales of his high street range to larger women, but I refuse to believe he was just talking about sample sizes in those quotes. He was talking about there being no room for larger models next to slimmer ones – the exact thing Debenhams is working so hard to ensure!
However, “Debenhams continues to lead the way for inclusivity in fashion with our size 16 mannequin campaign and commitment to only using size eight and above models.” Attridge continues.
Perhaps they should start by giving Julien Macdonald a massive public slap on the wrists?