During a recent meeting with our graphic designers, I arrived with a photograph for a Dining Etiquette project — but the woman in the picture had her elbows on the table. No worries, the designers said, we’ll adjust it. And they did; they “photoshopped” the misplaced elbow right onto her lap.
Adobe Photoshop® is the software that enables designers and photographers to reduce chubby thighs and chins, buff up arms and chests and eliminate facial lines. In short, this digital editing technique manipulates images with safe, non-invasive, touch-up surgery.
Sounds to good to be true and this month, Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation got caught overstepping the rules-of-reasonable-retouching.
No, your eyes don’t deceive you. In this ad, only released in Japan, the model’s head appears larger than her pelvis. Incredibly, even with the image in international circulation and the model, Filippa Hamilton, 23, expressing shock at seeing the “super skinny girl with my face,” the PR gang at Ralph Lauren tried to downplay the furor. Finally, they conceded that the image was “mistakenly released.” But the story doesn’t end there.
Filippa, who modeled for Ralph Lauren for eight years and thought of the firm as a second family, was so shocked by the controversy she decided to speak out. Countess Filippa Hamilton (she’s a member of the Swedish nobility and a French and Swedish national) announced that prior to the release of the controversial image, Ralph Lauren fired her — for being too fat. Just for the record, Filippa weighs 120 pounds, is 5’10” and size 4. According to the statement issued by her former employer, she could no longer meet her contractual obligations — Filippa ceased to be a sample size. (Experts say that the industry has “downsized” and the trend is for smaller size models. Size 0?)
This story is troubling on many levels — there’s no question that the distortion is distasteful — but the real concern is for young, impressionable women, anxious to imitate supermodels. Presenting this impossible-to-achieve body image is the greatest offence.
I agree with Yves Saint Laurent who often talked about fashion in terms of illusion. He was a master of proportion and balance long before Photoshop® was even a blip on a screen. Many of my clients want to achieve the look of a narrower waistline and by working with fabric, colour and silhouette, I’m able to enhance their assets. I call this Reality-Retouching.
Another French fashion designer has recently been making headlines. The release of the movie, Coco before Chanel, chronicles the early-life of this iconic designer. Along with Chanel #5 perfume, the little black dress, costume jewellery and so many of today’s fashion sensibilities, she gave women a sense of freedom. Her proudest achievement was giving women ownership of their bodies. With her innovative sense of style, Coco Chanel released the binding corsets that held diminutive waists in place. Come to think of it, not so far from Filippa’s photoshopped torso.
Learn more about Chanel’s legacy with Audrey Tautou (French star of Coco before Chanel)
See a preview of the film Coco before Chanel
Offended by the retouching or just plain annoyed about the potential damage to young girls’ self-image? Let us know your thoughts.