Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004





In Fashion…A vile business

Fashion is a vile business. It is tough, and it is heartless to the point of being inhuman.

Some years ago, I remember talking to a teen model in Paris on a cold January morning. She was 18, excited at being part of the great glamour globe. And, mind you, she was one among the Paris brigade, the city known as the Mecca of Style. What more could that young model want.

But a few months into the business of fashion, she knew what it was all about. “I had to stand out in the open for six hours modelling in a skimpy bikini”, she shivered a little even as she was narrating that awful experience to me. “And nobody even offered you as much as a towel to cover yourself up”, I asked. Surprised at my question, she asked, “but how do you know”.

Beneath the froth and beyond the magic lies an existence that is rotten to the core. The bubbly Champagne, the lavish parties and the exotica cannot lessen the pain and the cruelty that one faces in this industry. “Fashion eats people up and spits them out in a way that sends shivers down your spine: no wonder so many of its former shining stars end up unhinged”, says one writer.

Isabella Blow
Here is one story of a London style queen, Isabella Blow, who killed herself recently by drinking weedkiller. She was just 48, creative, but fragile. She could not take the brutality of the catwalk that came laced with arcenic.

I quote the same writer again: “Blow was a stylist of genius, championed talent, and was possessed of great generosity (as well as the most fabulous figure in London). When she saw Alexander McQueen’s first collection, for instance, she bought the lot and agitated until he received the recognition she was sure he deserved. Until then, she let him live in her basement. Fast forward, and McQueen is a global brand, a squillionaire, and Blow is, well, dead.

“And the industry she worked in and felt so passionately about surely had a part to play in that. Few of the fashion superstars she created and supported with every iota of her being ever thought to express their gratitude in a palpable sense and bung a few quid her way. Blow may have been posh but she was not rich, and was positively a pauper compared with her protégés.

“Friends of Blow say that although she was motivated by everything other than financial greed, even she could not fail to notice, and eventually become troubled by, the enormous discrepancy in lifestyle and income between her existence and those of her protégés, many of whom became strangely elusive once she’d made them famous.”

No wonder she was depressed, so depressed that she felt she was no longer needed. She ended her misery by ending her life.

Those who work in the fashion business must understand that this is not for the sensitive soul. The world that matters so much to you may be beautiful and alluring, but it is created out of illusion and pretence.

When this make-believe ends, and end it must sooner or later, the shock comes with a nasty bundle of disappoitments: friends disappear, no invites to parties, no tables at the best restaurants and no tickets for fashion shows. The fantasy crumbles and one is left with barely one’s clothes on.

Add to this the fixation for being skinny. Models starve to stay slim, and end up being anorexic. To make up for the lost food, some go on a drinking binge. Some use drugs. Some go in for excessive plastic surgery. All these play havoc with the model’s psyche.

Then there is unwanted sex. Girls often find that they have to give sexual favours to get what is legitimately due for them. The casting couch is as much a reality in the fashion scene as it is in the film world.

Isabella Blow was one woman who was written about. There are hundreds of others who die unsung, uncared for and deeply distressed.

(Webposted July 3 2007)