It’s fashion week in Milan again. One of the four times a year when the average Italian city dweller — not an amiable sort to begin with — is especially cranky.
There are no taxis, traffic congeals to a standstill and you’re forced to settle for a kebab or Chinese take-out because any place worth eating at is booked. Local news taunts with photos of spacey jumpsuits or bathroom-carpet sweaters, there are interviews with minor celebrities pressed against the catwalk and swirling shots of after-parties that you have not been and never will be invited to.
And there are models everywhere. It’s a humbling experience. You can make a non-aggression pact with your rear. Understand, on a philosophical level, that your face and body will change in sometimes bewildering ways because life is impermanence. Watch the original series of “What Not to Wear” until you get, once and for all, which bits of yourself are better concealed or revealed.
Normal-sized models? Fat chance…
But there’s something about close encounters with that other-species beauty – knobby baby giraffe legs and saucer eyes – that inevitably brings home the fact that human hangers are an entirely different breed.
These are men’s shows so the women are fewer and basically garnish, but all this talk of kinder, rounder models is tosh.
There are models at my robo-cop gym. Down the street, they skulk in front of Condé Nast offices for castings. Then look forlorn or pretend-busy while waiting for the tram. So I feel authorized to tell you BMIs are still way down low, as they have been for years.
Fat will not be fashionable any time soon. The absurdity of it hit me while cycling by a billboard blowup of an underfed 12-year-old prostitute, spent from her exertions. Oh, wait, it’s an ad for Valentino.
How did all this talk of certified “healthy” models lead to nought? Because it’s just talk. For starters, the skeleton hunt started in Madrid (quick: name five top Spanish designers. No, Zara doesn’t count.) making it a suspect bid for attention to start with.
When the story was first picked up in Italy, the Dolces & Versaces basically said, “Why should we use heavier models?” Stating – and how brave and/or reckless they were – more or less that if they wanted to dress average women, they’d be shopkeepers. By the time they were interviewed in English, they realized it was better to make appeasing noises.
Milan’s first woman mayor, Letizia Moratti, held a lot of earnest talks with fashion bigwigs and they decided on “voluntary health certification” for models.
Per favore, people. Most models don’t live here full time. So are they going to be certified (and how, exactly) abroad? When they get here, what’s the likelihood that a pair of prominent ribs will be kept off the runway? And will this lead to a real squadron of fashion police, present at fittings with calipers and a scale?
Over the last few seasons, city officials have tried to get workaday Milanese involved in the clothes circus by holding a few minor shows in public.
This year, in an effort to tame the disgruntled, they’ve set up a big screen in Piazza San Babila, so on your way down into the metro you can see men on a catwalk. It’s just a little truck with a largish screen on it. It doesn’t broadcast shows live as was billed; when I went hoping to get an eyeful of Emporio Armani it was running a taped show from some no-name designer with the sound off.
“What did you expect?” mumbled the old guy to his lumpy wife standing next to me. “Well, I don’t know,” she replied. “But the papers made it sound, you know, something special.”
Sadly, it’s one of the few forms of legitimate employment for those people whose bizarre looks won’t let them be like the rest of us.