For a little while now news has been swirling of Calvin Klein’s intention to use “more healthy body shapes” in its Intimates campaigns and we’ve finally been given the Perfectly Fit campaign featuring the brand’s first ‘plus size’ model, 27 year old Myla Dalbesio.
Since Kate Moss exploded on to the scene in the early 90’s and set tongues wagging with that iconic Calvin Klein Intimates campaign, this gig is one of the most coveted out there. Despite the huge success of the campaign, Moss claimed some years ago that she was uncomfortable with the content at such a young age.
Back to today; it’s an unfortunate fact that models between size 6-14 are considered plus size and beyond a size 14 there are several other brackets to define size to the modelling industry, and it’s a minefield.
When Dalbesio booked the Calvin Klein gig, shot by Lachlan Bailey she cried, calling it a defining moment in her career at a size 10, she’s the biggest model the iconic brand have ever worked with. I’m probably as frustrated by this as you are.
“It’s kind of confusing because I’m a bigger girl, I’m not the biggest girl on the market but I’m definitely bigger than all the girls Calvin Klein has ever worked with, so that is really intimidating.” Myla Dalbesio
Let’s be clear here, the brand made no big announcement about the campaign before being launched, there was no song and dance about including a plus size model, merely a comment about ‘health’ during a Q&A session in the pre-season. The brand directive was simply “to take a beautiful picture” of the models featuring in the campaign (Lara Stone, Amanda Wellsh, Jourdan Dunn, Ji Hye Park and Myla Dalbesio)
“They released me in this campaign with everyone else; there’s no distinction. It’s not a separate section for plus size girls” Myla Dalbosio
The inclusion of Dalbosio in the campaign has sparked global debate, not because it’s inappropriate or because it’s wrong, we should be celebrating all body types, but because of the definition of ‘plus size’ within the fashion industry.
For those taking a swipe at Calvin Klein, you’re aiming wide of the mark. The brand decided to use ‘healthy bodies’ in it’s Perfectly Fit campaign. If you were hoping for a size 20 model in this Intimates campaign, come on, that was never going to happen.
It’s just a fact that the fashion industry is tiered and at the top level, from haute couture to pret a porter, you’re unlikely to see a model above a size 4-6 and if you do manage to spot a ‘plus size’ hottie, it’s likely to be a headline grabbing tactic – Sophie Dahl on the Gaultier runway in the late 90’s leading to THAT banned Opium campaign, Crystal Renn for Chanel in 2010, Candice Huffine on the cover of Vogue Italia, Ashley Graham on the cover of Elle France and Sports Illustrated – all prolific and memorable moments for a Fashion Voyeur like me, but all created for dramatic effect using ‘plus size’ models as a prop.
This is one of those topics that won’t go away and it’s a multi-layered can of worms; Why does it exist? What is plus size? Who’s to blame? etc. Undoubtedly, everyone will have a differing opinion on who is at fault. However, one thing that’s glaringly obvious is that the public’s perception of ‘plus size’ is very different to that of the fashion industry. Time for some regulation and education perhaps?
“The new Calvin Klein Underwear Perfectly Fit imagery features models Myla Dalbesio, Jourdan Dunn, Amanda Wellsh, Ji Hye Park and the face of the brand, Lara Stone, in several styles. The Perfectly Fit line was created to celebrate and cater to the needs of different women, and these images are intended to communicate that our new line is more inclusive and available in several silhouettes in an extensive range of sizes.” Official statement from the House of Calvin Klein