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Spanish Secrets: From Heroes To Zeros

…The fashion industry is an important part of youth culture. By attacking it, the Spanish government could further alienate politically disenfranchised adolescents. As everyone knows, the quickest way to encourage a confident and rebellious young person to do something is to order them not to…

Craig Briggs is unimpressed by an agreement between Elena Salgado, Spain’s Minister of Health, and the fashion industry to limit the portrayal of thinness as being attractive.

For more of Craig’s must-read accounts of life in Spain please click on Spanish Secrets in he menu on this page.

A curious incident occurred last week. It was widely reported throughout Europe and beyond. The Spanish Health Minister, Elena Salgado, has reached an agreement with several large fashion retailers and design houses. The accord aims to promote a healthy lifestyle amongst Spanish women. It intends to achieve this by limiting the imagery of underweight models and standardising ladies’ fashion sizes throughout Spain.

How have Spanish women survived so long without such measures?

Over the next twelve months a study will be conducted involving over 8,500 women, ranging in age from 12 to 70. It’s hoped the results will determine the most common garment sizes. In addition to this study, clothes labelled size 46 (UK equivalent size 16) will no longer be considered oversized and all shop mannequins must measure at least size 38 (UK equivalent size 10).

I wonder who’ll police the dummies?

Señora Salgado is concerned that the fashion industry portrays excessive thinness as being attractive and encourages young girls to starve themselves in pursuit of such a figure. In extreme cases this leads to serious health problems or even death.

These latest measures follow hot-on-the-heels of banning overly-thin models at this year’s Pasarela Cibeles, Madrid’s highly respected international fashion show. It was the first time such restrictions had been imposed at one of the world’s major fashion events and created quite a stir.

Cynics might suggest that Señora Salgado is merely grabbing this week’s headline. Her populist ideas are not supported by government legislation. It’s simply a, “gentleman’s agreement” between her and the fashion industry, an industry for which most cash-strapped parents will have little, if any sympathy.

There is however, a serious health issue related to attaining a skeletal figure. Bulimia and anorexia are on the increase amongst 12 -16 year olds. But a far more worrying problem affecting the health of young people is obesity. Four out of every five children with a serious eating disorder are obese.

I doubt if Señora Salgado will be publicly announcing that parents should shoulder the blame for their excessively fat children – not exactly a vote winner.

The fashion industry is an important part of youth culture. By attacking it, the Spanish government could further alienate politically disenfranchised adolescents. As everyone knows, the quickest way to encourage a confident and rebellious young person to do something is to order them not to.

History is littered with examples of extreme and dangerous fashion trends and therein lie’s the answer. Like all new vogues they will have their day and then fade away. Political intervention risks turning this fad into a cult and extending its life far beyond its sell-by date.

Health Minister Salgado should concentrate less on her personal popularity and more on the health of a nation. Her time, and her electorate, would be best served by addressing important issues and leaving the constantly changing cycles of the fashion industry to their own devices.

Today’s fashion heroes are size zero but in the ever changing world of high-fashion, tomorrow’s zeros are yesterday’s heroes.

email address
craigandmel@msn.com

Copyright © 2007 Craig Briggs


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