It’s safe to say it’s been a controversial year but just when we thought the fashion industry was beginning to fight the controversy and celebrate diversity, body shaming strikes again.
Model Ulrikke Louise Lahn Høyer shared a post on her Facebook page, calling out the shameful treatment she received being involved in the Louis Vuitton cruise show. The Dutch native got the call every model dreams of; she had been asked to fly to Louis Vuitton’s Parisian atelier to fit for the show’s Cruise 18 show. What should’ve been a dream opportunity though was tainted from the start of Ulrikke’s journey.
Her measurements were taken at her Dutch agency and with a hip measurement of 92cm, a mutual decision was made to not send Ulrikke to Paris due to the rigid casting and size standards for the show citing a cold as the reason for her absence. Ulrikke’s French agency was then contacted by the casting agent about why she couldn’t make it and the model shared “We decided to tell them the truth and LV insisted on flying me straight to Paris the next day. I went to the fitting (tried on a dress and a coat) and before I even got back into my own clothes they confirmed me to the show.”
Ulrikke then took the 23hour flight to Japan to walk in the show (with a hip measurement of 91.5 cm, half a centimetre smaller than when she was confirmed for the show) but after a day of fittings, got a call from her agent that sent her experience spiralling downhill.
“Later that night my french agent called me and told me that Alexia had said that there had been some problems during the fitting. According to her I had “a very bloated stomach”, “bloated face”, and urged me to starve myself with this statement “Ulrikke needs to drink only water for the next 24 hours”. I was shocked when I heard it. This was exactly what we have wanted to avoid when we tried to cancel because I was ‘bigger’,” wrote Ulrikke.
After a day of starving herself, being subjected to ridicule and being made to feel like she was too fat, Ulrikke got the call from her Danish agent telling her she wasn’t walking in the show and that was that, three hours later she was on a plane back home.
It’s a frightening story. How is it, that in this day and age, when we have so much to stand up for and activate against, that anyone thinks it’s a feasible option for a model, who is already ultra-thin, to starve herself, just to walk on the catwalk? Beyond our awareness of the physical and mental health ramifications, is national media scrutiny not enough for major fashion houses to change their standards and promote a diverse and healthy image?
Ulrikke put it simply in her post, “This is not about me being cancelled from a show, I’ve tried that before (all girls on my level have) you win some and you lose some that’s the game. But I cannot accept the ‘normality’ in the behaviour of people like this. They find pleasure in power over young girls and will go to the extreme to force an eating disorder on you. If this comes from them or some of the fashion houses I don’t know as I’ve only been dealing with the casters. Nicholas is super nice and treats everybody with respect and even remembers all the girl’s names etc. but these sizes of the show pieces are made for women to have eating disorders. Go watch the show and see for yourself, even the smallest tightest pants are loose on the models they book.”
After Ulrikke’s story gained national attention, the casting director involved, Ashley Brokaw, spoke with Business of Fashion in response, telling them it was all a “misunderstanding”. She went on to explain that Ulrikke was fitted in a coat in the Paris Atelier and confirmed for the show however when she arrived in Japan it wasn’t fitting her properly and ultimately she had to be cut. “Once we were in Tokyo we were very limited by what we could do. We didn’t have the atelier to remake anything and we didn’t have a lot of other options to try on her, although we did try some other things on her and nothing quite worked. So it was a situation that was devastating all round” said Ashley.
Despite the diplomatic reasoning for Ulrikke’s cut, it just doesn’t seem good enough. To cut someone from a show; perfectly reasonable. To shame someone into starving themselves; not so much.
It’s hard to know what it’s going to take to make a real change in the industry and see everyone involved begin to care for the safety of these young girls who put their lives at risk for the sake of fashion. Until we see some real change, all we can do is show support and make as much noise as possible against the cruel, unrealistic and frankly fucked up expectations of a models figure.