Friday, April 2, 2010

Fashion luminaries discuss eating disorders at Harris Center forum

GOOD HEALTH IS IN FASHION: From left, Herzog, Vodianova, Kors and Wintour

THE RUNWAYS OF FASHION WEEK and the pages of magazines are dominated by models who are chic and beautiful but all too often frighteningly thin. David B. Herzog, MD, director for the Harris Center for Education and Advocacy in Eating Disorders at MGH and an internationally renowned eating disorder expert, has teamed up with the fashion industry to help address the problems of eating disorders and poor body image.

 This year's Harris Center Public Forum – held March 22 at Harvard Business School – reflected the center's commitment by featuring some of fashion's biggest names: Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour, American fashion designer Michael Kors and Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova. The event, "Health Matters: Weight and Wellness in the World of Fashion," focused on efforts by the industry to tackle the problems surrounding eating disorders and body image and addressed obstacles limiting the momentum in solving them.

In her remarks before an audience of nearly 1,000 guests, Wintour talked about the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Health Initiative, which was established to promote the well-being of the fashion industry's models. Its guidelines include setting minimum age requirements, banning alcohol and tobacco from backstage, and educating models, designers and casting agents about eating disorders and how to find treatment.

"A model's weight and eating disorders were taboo issues before; the CFDA Health Initiative has helped to change that," said Wintour, who also recognized that there are still many challenges.

"The sample sizes we get are just too small," she said of the clothes given for photo shoots. "There has been a dramatic downward shift in the size of the clothes."

Kors made the biggest commitment during the event, pledging to raise the minimum age of models he hires to 16. "The fashion industry is starting to address real women again. Women are in vogue," he said to applause. Vodianova talked about her own battles with self-image and an eating disorder, which she described as "little gremlins" in her head.

Vodianova has been an outspoken proponent of improving the health of models, speaking at the first CFDA Health Initiative event in 2007. She also lauded efforts to raise the age requirements.

"The girls need to establish their own sense of self-worth before it is handed over to people who don't care about their emotions," she said.

"The goal of the forum was to bring new momentum to this discussion in the fashion industry," says Herzog. "We hope that a commitment from the industry will help change size standards from those that are unrealistic to those that reflect good health."

The event helped raise more than $150,000 for the Harris Center, which is dedicated to research, education and advocacy for eating disorders and offers clinical assessment and treatment for children, adolescents, adults and families affected by these diseases. 


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