What's Up in the World of Green Modeling?
The Struggle behind the PETA Protest, by The-Edge
December 13, 2002
NEW YORK: On November 15, a phalanx of petulant anti-fur activists from PETA briefly disrupted the filming of a Victoria's Secrets lingerie show at the Lexington Avenue Armory. As supermodel Gisele Bundchen paraded down the runway, four women clambered up behind her brandishing picket signs bearing the provocative slogan "Giselle: Fur Scum."
Supermodel Bundchen minces no steps and PETA minces no words in getting its message across.
Supermodels Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks and Karolina also were decked out in angel wings and set to promenade for the CBS network camera crews but PETA's chosen target was Bundchen. PETA spokeswoman Lisa Lange explained that PETA decided to pelt Bundchen with disdain after Gisele revealed her decision to become the spokesmodel for a mink company.
Reuters reported that Bundchen, "wearing a flamenco beaded miracle bra and a leather skirt over her thong, appeared unfazed, and the audience cheered as security nabbed the protesters." Three protesters, Karla Waples, 25, Arathi Jayarem, 26, and Kayla Rae Worden, 41, were given disorderly-conduct summonses. The fourth protester was not charged. Recently, a number of models (including Campbell) who had initially won PETAs plaudits for refusing to model furs have turned their well-shaped backs on politically correct clothing choices.
The heyday of environmentally active modeling was marked by the debut of an organization called Models with Conscience [MWC, PO Box 65658 Tucson, AZ 85728-5658]. A recent dispatch from MWC Founder Heather Chase brings word that many women in the fashion industry still strive to be model citizens in the Green community.
One example is Joanne, a lovely MWC member from Australia, [who] is working to end the slaughter of dogs and cats for human consumption in Korea. She asked me to invite you to help by sending preformatted postcards to key decision makers. The postcards can be printed from this website: www.koreananimals.org/help.htm.
But, with the defection of such high-profile luminaries as Naomi Campbell and Gisele Bundchen, it has become evident that the fashion industrys brief shinning moment as a beacon of responsible consumption has dimmed considerably.
How Green Is your Catwalk?
By Remy Chevalier
Green activist and fashion maven Remy Chevalier has closely watched the rise and fall of the Green Fashionistas. Here is his off-the-cuff, bare-knuckled analysis of the current state of the US fashion scene. How Green is your Catwalk? by Remy Chevalier
The sad fact is that Models With a Conscience (MWC) carries little or no weight in the fashion industry. Neither does its bonafide union, The Models Guild [www.opeiu.org/models/index.asp] which has been trying, unsuccessfully, for years to reach the same gravitas as the Screen Actor's Guild in the movie industry.
Curtain call at the Victoria's Secrets gala in New York. It's not easy being green when you're dressed in feathers and treated like a toy.
The modeling world is an air-tight cabal. The simple truth is: who has the "girls" makes the rules. Agencies make sure the "girls" (or the "men" for that matter) never get it together enough to organize anything other than their own career.
In the late 80's and early 90's the girls achieved super-model status and started to command stellar fees - more money than the photographers. It gave them strong control over what they would put on, wear, and ultimately be a spokesperson for fueled by a very intensive networking effort on the part of Wetlands Eco-Saloon [www.eco-saloon.com] (an after-effect of Earth Day 1990) to educate the girls about what they were selling.
But the designers and the agencies rebelled at having to pay all that money for top girls with an "environmental" attitude, so they got together and priced-fixed the industry, in effect taking away the influential power the girls had suddenly gained. They still make the big bucks, but not nearly as much as they were making in the 90's.
But more importantly, they no longer have the "political" clout they had at the end of the Century. They are back to being faceless coat horses, which is why PETA is so upset. The girls have lost their short-lived stronghold because they have to eat. If it were up to the models, it would be different. For the most part, the models are smarter than many people give them credit for, and they are much more sensitive to "issues" than most designers.
Remember when Karl Lagerfeld once called Heidi Klum a "German Sausage"? Isn't it interesting that today Heidi, along with Gisele, is the top girl in the industry? The public face of International modeling is now a beer fest girl fun, sweet, bubbly, brash, loud, a truck-stop biker girl, totally devoid of social conscience.
Modeling agencies like to keep the girls in a state of "total" immature confusion, cultivating their "vulnerability" for the camera. It's too darn competitive a business to orchestrate any cooperation between the major players. It's all sweetness and light and air kisses, quickly degenerating into superficial kindness and backstabbing on go-sees (bookings). Think "The Bachelor" times ten!
Trust me when I tell you the majority of modeling agents are really, really creepy people, who make their money vicariously, a nudge below zoot suit pimps.
Agents are the ones who need to get with the "green" program in the fashion industry if the industry as a whole can change from the top on down as well as the bottom up. The girls are sold on the environmental issues, they've just been holding their noses, the easy money is just too tempting. They make in a few minutes what exotic dancers make in a week, showing less skin.
But deep inside, below the surface, it's the same thing. The catwalk is just Scores for the upper crust. Any attempt to organize is met with disdain. The girls don't have any say as to what is on the label, where the clothes come from, how they are made, who makes them, the conditions they are made under, etc... They don't have that luxury.
For PETA to blame a single model for wearing fur is unfair. Besides, I'm certain Victoria's Secret's PR people and PETA's PR people were working together behind the scenes on their little stunt to boost publicity for the event. That's how it's done. The issue is not black and white, it's shades of gray.
Fur has been around forever, and will be around forever. What won't be around forever are the fur-bearing species on their way to extinction. And because the models actually "wearing" and "promoting" the clothes are too busy to analyze the situation in great detail, they get manipulated from both sides into a polarized view, displaying signs of sheer despair about what to do.
The strong survive and the girls with long careers in the modeling business (those who eventually graduate to film or some other type of media-related venture) have their hearts well anchored into the dregs of the Earth. The others go home a little richer, but broken, having prostituted their image selling things and objects that they know perpetuate the trashing of the planet.
This is why aspiring magazine projects like Collage, or Lu or a marriage of both, or a greener evolution of already existing titles, like I-D or Nylon would go a long way toward accelerating positive change in the fashion, art and design industries/communities.
It's up to editors of environmental publications to network and infiltrate the Conde Nasties. Don't forget the Audubon Society was founded to stop Vaudeville from using endangered bird feathers!
Serious campaigns by other green groups besides PETA are necessary to educate the girls about the products they are lending their names to. We need to help them put their foot down to say "no" without being blacklisted. That's the challenge.
Remy Chevalier is the founding editor of Lu Magazine [www.lumag.com], a project devoted to the greening of the fashion industry, editor-at-large and webmaster of Electrifying Times magazine [www.electrifyingtimes.com] and a co-founder of New York's famous environmental nightclub, Wetlands Preserve.
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