New Nolita Campaign Features Nude Anorexic: Exploitation or Debate? *pics*

  1. Controversy as a Fashion Statement
    New Nolita Campaign Features Nude Anorexic;
    Exploitation or Debate?

    For the past year, a number of fashion trade groups have been trying to clean up the industry's image by pushing designers to use healthier, heavier-looking models.

    Now, an ad campaign from an Italian label, Nolita, has done the opposite, using images of an emaciated 27-year-old woman, nude, with the line, "No. Anorexia." Double-page spreads of the ads debuted Monday in major Italian newspapers along with prominent downtown billboards in cities such as Milan, Naples and Rome, coinciding with Milan's fashion week. The ads will run in national French newspaper Libération next week.

    By using stark photos of a longtime anorexia sufferer, the ad campaign cranks up the volume on a debate that many in the industry had tried to keep muted. Luisa Bertoncello, managing director of Nolita's parent company, Flash&Partners, says she too was "shocked" when she first saw the photos, but proceeded with the campaign because it laid bare a hypocrisy that she says still lurks in the fashion world. "If you don't think there is a problem with some of the models working in our industry, then you have blinders on," she said in a telephone interview. "The fashion industry glorifies sickly thin models and it has to stop." Flash&Partners has received no requests to pull the campaign, Ms. Bertoncello added.


    Click here1 to see the ad campaign at Nolita's Web site. The campaign features graphic images.
    However, the campaign has already alienated some of the very people who champion the cause Nolita is trying to embrace. And it has also stirred up controversy over whether the brand is raising awareness about anorexia, or possibly profiting from it.

    "This girl needs to be in a hospital, not at the forefront of an advertising campaign," said Fabiola De Clercq, founder and president of ABA, the Italian association against anorexia, bulimia and obesity.

    Ms. De Clercq, who says she suffered from anorexia for more than 20 years, called the ads "useless and dangerous." She said the campaign "glorifies a woman who is sick and could lead others to be sickly thin because of all the attention."

    Mario Boselli, the president of Italy's fashion-trade group, the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, who spearheaded a drive over the past year to nudge designers and fashion magazines to use fuller-bodied models, said he was dismayed by the campaign. "It bothers me because it's being used for commercial purposes," he said. "It's quite disturbing, especially because this is such a serious disease."

    Ms. Bertoncello dismissed comments that her company is seeking to profit from a deadly disease. "The campaign sets off an alarm, and it's a loud one," she said. "I am happy the ad is being talked about. Whether it's positive or negative, at least the issue is getting some real attention." Nonetheless, she doesn't deny that the main purpose of the campaign is to market the Nolita brand and acknowledges that all her models are thin.

    The Nolita campaign and the reaction to it highlight the internal struggles the industry is having as it seeks to grapple with the role fashion plays in promoting an unhealthily thin look for women. For several years, influential labels such as Gucci and Prada have been pushing an ultrathin look in their advertising and runway shows, which has been widely copied. But after Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston died of complications from anorexia in 2006, some in the fashion business tried to force the industry to reflect on what it could do to improve its image.

    Most of those efforts have encouraged magazines, designers and modeling agencies to police themselves. For example, partly at the urging of Mr. Boselli, Italy's fashion-trade organization -- which organizes the Milan twice-yearly fashion shows -- and the Italian government drafted a set of guidelines intended to get fashion houses and magazines to use healthier-looking models. Those included asking that models produce a doctor's certificate attesting that they are in good health and limiting the use of models under age 16. It also recommended that models with a body-mass index of 18.5 or less be banned from the catwalks. The World Health Organization considers anyone with a BMI of less than 18.5 to be underweight.

    The London fashion-week organizers also put a 16-year minimum age requirement on models during their recent shows, but they decided against trying to block models with a BMI below a certain level.

    However, trying to wean the industry off a look it has cultivated for years hasn't been easy. Attempts to get designers to adhere to guidelines have met with mixed success. Many designers bristle at any attempt to impose limits on their artistic license.

    Earlier this year, Dolce & Gabbana pulled an ad in Spain that showed a bare-chested man pinning a woman to the ground as three men looked on after consumers in Spain protested it glorified violence against women. But in a statement, the company cited the need "to protect the creative freedom which has always been its signature."

    Mr. Boselli says his efforts are working. "The models walking the runway this week are not sickly thin" he said. "Designers are starting to realize the importance of promoting a healthy industry."

    Others aren't so sure. "I don't see a difference" between this year and last year, said Robert Polet, chief executive of Gucci Group, from the sidelines of the Bottega Veneta show on Tuesday. Indeed, many of the models on the runway this year in Milan are veterans from last year's shows. "But," Mr. Polet added, "I encourage the debate."

    The Nolita campaign was developed by photographer Oliviero Toscani, who has made a career out of twinning often disturbing images with fashion. During the '80s and '90s, he authored numerous campaigns for Italian apparel maker Benetton that touched on themes of race, AIDS and sexuality. Some of those images won praise for the way they embraced people, such as AIDS sufferers, that society had often scorned. Other images, such as a priest kissing a nun, were criticized as little more than crass attempts to shock and offend.

    Mr. Toscani said in an interview that Nolita called on him to develop a campaign for fashion week but didn't try to impose any requirements. "I don't work that way; I'm an artist," he said. He came up with the anorexia theme on his own and presented it to the company. "This is a subject that needed light shined upon it. Art in general has to provoke," he said, adding, "I think it's wrong that fashion glorifies women who are too thin, and this is an example of someone who has taken it to an extreme."

    Produced by Creative Media in Milan, the campaign features two disturbing views -- front and back -- of Isabelle Caro, a 27-year-old French woman who has suffered from anorexia since she was 13. Ms. Caro didn't respond to emails seeking comment. However, she maintains a blog in which she discusses her struggle with the disease, and her decision to pose for the photographs. She weighs 68 pounds, though she stands 5 feet 5 inches. She blames her anorexia on a difficult childhood but says she "loves life and the richness of the universe." She writes with excitement about the Nolita campaign and says she "hopes it will force young people to wake up to the dangers of the disease."

    Nolita, based in Tombolo, in northeast Italy, targets young women with midrange apparel. Last year its sales totaled €90 million ($127.3 million), and its biggest markets are Italy, the U.S. and Japan. The label has a history of running provocative campaigns, such as using a model in a wheelchair. But the brand has never attracted major attention in fashion circles until now.

    Among designers who feel the campaign's attempt to draw attention to the disease misses the mark is Alessandra Facchinetti, who presented her spring collection for high-end line Moncler in Milan this week and will now take over as the creative director of women's wear for fashion house Valentino. "I don't agree with it," she said. "It's not something that we need to see -- to show that body like that, that's really sad. That kind of thing is so personal we don't need to show it -- we all know what [anorexia] is, we all know what it looks like. There are so many ways to get the message across without having such shock value."

    Diane von Furstenberg, president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, who spearheaded the discussion in the U.S. about the issue of ultrathin models, saw the ad featured on a TV news segment in Paris, where she is planning for her fall 2008 collection. "It's a horrible picture, but I think it may be very good in the end," she said. "Anorexia is definitely something that should get as much attention as possible. It affects a lot of people. I would rather see a poster that promotes health and beauty."

    A model at the Roberto Cavalli show in Milan this week. The fashion industry is feeling increased pressure to use healthier, heavier-looking models.


    Click here to see full ad campaign
  2. ^ I saw that ad the other day and i was like O-M-G.
    I really hope it shows people that size 0 or being really tiny is not healthy or pretty at all.
  3. YEs, and I think that's definetly its purpose. The pictures in the ad also shows some pretty nasty skin conditions on this woman. >_< But all in all it'll just gather a lot of attention for the brand.
  4. ^ really? when i see that ad, the last thing i notice is the brand even though it's strewn in hot pink. As much as it's a campaign backed by a brand, I view it in the same light as Benetton and Kenneth Cole ads. I never see those as using the social issues the company addresses in the ads as exploitive and used to gain sales for them. I see it as more a company who itself is interesting in exploring these issues and uses it's name to bring attention to it. I guess everyone will have a different opinion on it, though.
  5. I don't really disagree with you. Both cases benefit from this, I do not think it's explotation. However, I do not believe the company would've picked the case if it hadn't attracted so much attention. Nolita is after all not that famous. To back your post is the fact that she doesen't really wear or promote any nolita product in the ad. =)
  6. WTF? Just...ew!
  7. Ick. Sad thing is, I'm so cynical I don't totally know if the ad is supposed to be negative. Maybe some people out there think she's the beauty ideal? Either way, Nolita ads are pretty weird and annoying (what are they doing in LA???).
  8. I think it's really good that she agreed to raise awareness of this disease, good for her. Those pictures certainly will make people rethink about trying to get to that size 0. I hope she gets it under control, I wish her the best.
  9. ^^
    that skin condition she has might be's a genetic autoinmmune disease and not related to anorexia.
    showing anorexics the images they already see in their heads as ideal is unlikely to change an anorexic's opinion of what is or isn't healthy. promoting the idea of healthy looking women might be a better way.
  10. Scary. Makes me feel better about having eaten McDonalds AND Taco Bell today!