Vogue models Daria Werbowy, Natalia Vodianova, Gisele Bundchen, Isabeli Fontana, Karolina Kurkova, Liya Kebede, Hana Soukupova, Gemma Ward & Karen Elson by Steven Meisel
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Beautiful black models Chanel Iman, Jourdan Dunn,Arlenis sosa and Joan Smalls
VOGUE magazine, perhaps the world's top arbiter of style, is making a statement about its own models: too thin is no longer in.
African girls are everywhere in fashion right now. Since Vogue Italia's Black issue in 2008, ebony-skinned beauties have assumed a higher profile on the world's fashion stage. About time, too. And, this year, every show worth its front row had black African models on its runway and so here is our Who's Who guide to the African models dominating the scene in 2011.
Oluchi was discovered when she was 16 by Elite, when she won the Face of Africa competition in 1998. She went on to star on covers all over the world -from Vogue Italia and i-D, to Marie Claire and Nylon. Designers love her marketability as well as her edgy editorial look, so not only did she book shows for Chanel and Christian Dior, she featured in campaigns for brands including Gianfranco Ferré, Gap and Banana Republic. Now, Oluchi runs her own modelling agency - OModel Africa – through which she hopes to provide opportunities she had to a new generation of models.
Vogue editors have agreed to "not knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder".
Editors of Vogue magazines around the world, including Australia, have made a pact to project the image of healthy models, according to a Conde Nast International announcement.
They agreed to "not knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder", and said they will ask casting directors to check IDs at photo shoots and fashion shows and for ad campaigns.
The move is an important one for the fashion world, said model Sara Ziff, who was discovered at 14 and has since founded The Model Alliance, dedicated to improving the working conditions of models and persuading the industry to take better care of its young.
"Most editions of Vogue regularly hire models who are minors, so for Vogue to commit to no longer using models under the age of 16 marks an evolution in the industry," she said.
"We hope other magazines and fashion brands will follow Vogue's impressive lead."
Models with any sign of an eating disorder will not be run in the page of Vogue magazine. Photo / File
Lip service or sea change? Sceptics wonder whether Vogue magazine's vow to ban models under 16 or those with visible signs of an eating disorder is more hype than health.
The 19 editors of Vogue around the world made the promise last week, beginning with June issues and including editions in America, France, Britain and China. They also encouraged fashion designers to reconsider "unrealistically" small sample sizes that make ultra-thin models necessary in the first place.
Vogue didn't address the widespread industry practice of digitally altering photos that critics believe promotes an impossible standard of beauty.
While the new initiatives are certainly good news for models, Susan Linn of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood said Vogue didn't go far enough.
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"If Vogue was really concerned about the wellbeing of girls in terms of their health, then they would have done what Spain and Italy did and use only girls who have what has been deemed a healthy Body Mass Index."
The health of models, especially their weight, has been in the spotlight over the past few years, especially after the death of two models from apparent complications from eating disorders in 2006 and 2007, but the focus, until now, has been on runway fashion shows.
The primary fashion organisations in Italy and Spain banned catwalk models who fall below a certain BMI level. Israel's government passed an anti-skinny-model law earlier this year.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America adopted a voluntary initiative in 2007 emphasising age minimums and healthy working environments during New York Fashion Week. London Fashion Week designers signed a contract with the British Fashion Council to use models who are at least 16.
Anna Wintour, Vogue's US editor-in-chief, was instrumental in crafting the CFDA's guidelines.
Still, there is persistent criticism that the fashion world creates a largely unattainable and unhealthy standard that particularly affects impressionable young girls.
Audrey Brashich, a former teen model and ex-editor of a teen magazine, called the Vogue announcement a "tiny baby step of progress," at best.
"The cynic in me feels like they are simply grandstanding while really just throwing a bone to an audience that is getting ever more savvy and tired of the tricks of the trade," she said.
Linn agreed, adding: "It's not going to help the millions of young girls who turn to these magazines to decide what they should aspire to look like."
Conde Nast publishes other magazines, including Glamour and Allure, but a spokeswoman said there are no current plans for these guidelines to be adopted across the company.
Glamour said in a statement that the magazine's policy already was not to book models under 16 or those who appear to have an eating disorder.
The Hearst Corp., home to Elle, Harper's Bizarre and Marie Claire, said in a statement that it supports the CFDA guidelines.
"Good health is something we strive to promote in our magazines, both in our fashion and beauty stories and in our features," they said.
"We make every effort to educate our readers and present images that reflect strong, beautiful women."
Elissa J. Brown, professor of psychology at St. John University and founder of The Partners Program, a specialised therapy program for children and adolescents, said she was cautiously optimistic about Vogue's attempt to prioritise health over weight.
"I don't think the shift will come in the next couple of weeks, and I don't think the shift will come unless the entire industry participates," she said. "I would like to see what comes next." AP
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