H&M’s “corpse-like” model stirs up controversy


You can't flip through a magazine, watch a television show or even walk down the street these days without being bombarded by airbrushed images of super-thin, gorgeous models, with legs for days and perfectly tousled hair. They're selling us food, clothing, makeup -- you name it -- and we're supposed to want what whatever it is that they're selling because they make it all look so good. It usually works.

But according to the UK's Daily Star, when images of H&M's Marni collaboration that were intended for press previews got released to the public, they triggered a series of negative reactions amongst British fashion editors and parents alike. This time, they weren't going to sit idly by while another too-skinny model was paraded around as the epitome of beauty.

The model in question was 26-year-old Aymeline Valade, from France, who has walked the runway for the likes of Balenciaga, Alexander Wang, Gucci, Chanel and Louis Vuitton, to name a few. She's graced the pages of W magazine, Harper's Bazaar and Vogue, so what was it about these particular images that rubbed people the wrong way?

"This model looks very unwell, almost corpse-like," says Dr. Julian Spinks to the Daily Star. "Her skin is grey, you can see prominent veins in her hands and she has huge eye bags," he says. "I find it incredible that a fashion store like H&M, which appeals to young people, is using an image which encourages them to be unhealthy."

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According to Valade's modelling agency, she stands 5 ft 10 in., with a 33-in. bust, a 24-in. waist and 35-in. hips. But critics seems to be less concerned with her measurements than they are with the poorly advised styling and makeup that cause the model to look even more malnourished, reports the Daily Mail.

H&M responded to the controversy with the following statement:

"H&M has an advertising policy in which we strongly distance ourselves from alcohol and drug abuse, and we do not work with models who are significantly underweight. The models are always chosen in consultation with representatives from H&M and established modelling agencies who are made aware of, and agree to, H&M's advertising policy. For this particular Marni at H&M lookbook shoot, we felt that Aymeline Valade would portray the collection in an inspiring way. We are aware that many of the models used in images today are petite or thin, and that this is something that is occurring in the industry we operate in. We are committed to not using models who could be considered significantly underweight, and we are looking into how we can take additional steps within our industry."

Despite the company's public apology, it might be too little, too late for some shoppers. London mother Maria Rowntree, for example, tells the Daily Mail she'd be hesitant to take her daughter shopping at H&M in the future. "After seeing the disturbingly thin girl used to model the Marni collection, I would think twice about encouraging her to go there," she says. "What kind of standards are they setting to teenagers when they say it's attractive to look that gaunt?"

Has the use of this model changed your opinion of the mass fashion retailer? Why do you think these photos, specifically, hit a nerve with people?

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