Bravo to France for this Summer bringing into force a new law targeting ‘unrealistic body images’ and eating disorders. Mais oui! From now on, models must provide a doctor’s certificate confirming that their body mass index (BMI) sits in a healthy range in order to work. And, anyone breaking this French law faces fines of up to 75,000 Euros, and possibly a spell in prison. Today, as we approach the next round of Fashion Weeks (NYC 7th-14 September, with London 12-19 September, then Paris and Milan), two of the biggest French fashion firms, LVMH and Kering have announced all their models must be bigger than a French size 32, equivalent to a UK size 6, or US size zero. While we think that’s still pretty darn slim, we concede it’s a good start, and as they number big-hitting brands in their portfolio including Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Marc Jacobs, Thomas Pink, Fendi and Stella McCartney, their lead is important. Oh, and for the same brands, under 16-year-olds will no longer be allowed to model adult clothing. Obvious really.
This begs our question: When producing your hairdressing photographic collections and shows, how responsible are you for the whole body image you put out there?
Should hairdressing UK (or preferably all fashion, hair and beauty industries) follow the French example and make a bigger effort not to promote extremely thin bodies in our images? For our part, as hairdressing media publishers in print and online, we’re keen to avoid skinny models who may encourage unrealistic body ideals. Indeed there are times we’ve refused to take or publish photographs of certain hair show teams, and collection imagery on these grounds.
Going a step further, in France a second law will come into play on 1 October, and it will require photos where a model’s silhouette has been digitally altered to be marked with the label “photographie retouchée” which translates as ‘retouched photograph’. Again, we say yes! The blurred line between fantasy and reality should become sharper again. After all, it’s frustrating to discover that the hair on an image has been digitally altered when you’d thought the work was entirely the hairdresser’s own. Or that at times, real hair is passed off to promote the use of hair extensions, and vice versa? It’s misleading trickery if not downright lies. Do you have to be a hairdressing ‘purist’ to frown at the use of added hair or wigs to create an effect which is passed off as being created solely by a model’s real hair? In recent years, we’re aware that trade awards criteria have evolved to request before-and-after shots to be submitted with a competition entry, to make it more clear what is your professional work as a hairdresser, and what has been enhanced by a clever photographer. Quite right.
We’re keen to salute what the French have started and encourage you to be confident in following suit. Today’s popular role models, style icons and red-carpet fashionistas are more curvaceous than in the 80s, 90s and Noughties. While not actually hefty, the likes of the Jennifer Lawrence, Nicki Minaj, Halle Berry, Kylie Jenner, and Heidi Klum are not waifs either. Women are increasingly interested in seeing their idols having fitter, more realistic body shapes. The use of ‘Photoshopping’ and other digital trickery has become so widespread it’s effectively dumbing down the art of make-up artists, hairdressers and designers. We hope the pendulum is swinging back to #nofilter #noretouching. Realism is the way forward.
Why not join in the conversation, and debate the point with your salon guests, and your team. Just as healthy-looking, well-conditioned hair is prime consideration, we say extend that focus to body-image, self-esteem and vitality. This should be part of every salon’s brand. Don’t you agree?
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