ONE OF Australia’s most popular fashion designers, Alex Perry, has criticised the fashion industry for allowing thin models to continually walk in runway shows.
On Wednesday evening, a worryingly thin model wore an Alex Perry dress while on the catwalk at a Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival (VAMFF) event, which was organised by not-for-profit organisation Melbourne Fashion Festival Ltd.
VAMFF is a week-long fashion event featuring runway shows, corporate seminars and industry parties. More than 200 designers, including Dion Lee, Alice McCall, and Bec & Bridge, are involved.
Mr Perry was not personally involved in the casting of the show. A Myer spokeswoman confirmed the department store, where Mr Perry’s designs are stocked, was also not involved.
Mr Perry said the model wearing one of his designs should never have been allowed to walk in the show.
“Unfortunately, I don’t have anything to do with the casting at that event. In the past I cast a girl who was too thin and I stood up for myself. I knew that I made a mistake. But I had nothing to do with this,” Mr Perry told news.com.au.
Mr Perry says it is up to the event’s organisers and the show’s casting director to employ healthy-looking models.
“Whoever the casting director is, or the people who are involved with putting that show together, they need to put their hands up and say ‘This isn’t right’.
“Everybody has a responsibility. It’s up to the designers, the event organisers, the model’s agents. But everyone seems to get off scot-free. Like hang on, ‘Why are you promoting that girl?’
“If the girl never got out of the gates in the first place, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
He also called on other designers to speak publicly about body image.
“They should be held accountable. Everyone sticks their heads in the sand, but every other designer books girls like that. Put your hand up and say something about it,” he said.
Mr Perry has previously apologised for casting an exceptionally thin model, formerAustralia’s Next Top Model runner-up Cassi Van Den Dungen, in his runway show at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in 2014.
Her gaunt face and skeletal legs drew gasps from the front row and raised concerns over her health.
At the time, Mr Perry admitted it was a “serious lapse of judgment” to use the then 21-year-old and said the images of Van Den Dungen made him “recoil”.
“It’s not an image I think is a good one to put forward [and] certainly not one I’ve presented my brand about,” he said, admitting he should have excluded her from the show.
“I should have made that call. I was off the ball.”
A spokeswoman for VAMFF told news.com.au festival organisers work with “reputable agents” to ensure all its runway models are healthy. It also requires all of its models to be age 16 or over.
“Already this week we have seen naturally slim, athletic, seniors, fuller figure and petite models from diverse cultural nationalities take to our runways,” she said.
“On Tuesday, the festival experienced an unexpected heatwave and priority was given to the safety of all models, staff and patrons at the event and some styling amendments had to be made to accommodate this.”
When asked if this meant slimmer models were supposed to wear oversized clothing or coats, but couldn’t because of the heat, the spokeswoman said: “Absolutely not”.
Last year, the French government passed a law which bans modelling agencies and fashion brand from employing models with a body mass index (BMI) of less than 18. A ‘healthy’ BMI is somewhere between 18 and 25.
The penalty for breaking the law is imprisonment of up to six months and a fine of 75,000 euros ($AU110,000).
Parents who are concerned about their children can seek advice, support and access to resources by calling Butterfly’s National Support Line on 1800 33 4673 or email [email protected]