Barbie dolls were always known for their wildly fashionable outfits, with collections for different seasons, themes, occasions, and even cultures. However, one culture that did not embrace Barbie’s multi-billion dollar closet was Iran. The dolls, created by Mattel Inc. in 1959, were officially banned from the country in 1996. Religious leaders declared that the blonde icon was an invasion of Western culture and “could lead to destructive cultural and social consequences,” Time reported.
Unfortunately, Homer Simpson and his family have jumped on (or, rather, were force onto) the ‘banned’-wagon with Barbie. The Iranian government has been moving strongly against signs of Western influences, and earlier this month the country has cracked down on “Western intoxication” by not only banning Simpsons episodes but all Simpsons merchandise as well. “We don’t want to promote this cartoon by importing the toys,” says Mohammad Hossein Farjoo, Secretary for Policy-Making of the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults (IIDCYA). This agency oversees what Iranian children can play with and according to their standards, Barbie dolls were a threat to Iranian morals because of their shapely figures and revealing clothing. But what about the nuclear family of Springfield? Perhaps it’s Marge’s form-fitting tube dress or Lisa’s uncovered hair? Farjoo did not go into detail about the characters’ ways of dress, but he did explain that dolls with distinguishable genitals, as well as dolls of adults, are prohibited (according to the Associated Press). But which parts of the cartoon dolls are anatomically accurate? None (I hope!).
Macy’s and J.C. Penny’s are two staples in most shopping centers and a consumer is often left deciding to shop in one or the other…or both. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. (MSLO) seems to have recently faced a similar problem and its decision to go with both has created quite a stir.
The Fashion Industry encourages people to be creative and dynamic. This might send a positive message, but one can flip through any fashion magazine to see that the industry’s idealized version of beauty still skews healthy body image standards. Models in magazines and on the runway may appear effortlessly thin and chic, but for many, that image is the result of unhealthy eating habits and poor lifestyle choices.
According to the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), “extreme thinness has woven itself into the runway ideal, through the inclusion of some unhealthy body weights of rail-thin, often very young models.” Although the CFDA created a Health Initiative in 2007 to raise awareness of eating disorders in the fashion industry and to promote more realistic body types, have these guidelines really been effective? New York Magazine posted the CFDA guidelines for this season:
- Educate the industry to identify the early warning signs in an individual at risk for developing an eating disorder.
- Encourage models who may have an eating disorder to seek professional help.
- Models who are receiving professional help for an eating disorder should not continue modeling without that professional’s approval.
- Develop workshops for the industry on the nature of eating disorders and how they arise.
- Do not hire models under the age of sixteen for runway shows; check IDs to ensure the age of models.
- Supply healthy meals, snacks, and water backstage and at shoots and provide nutrition and fitness education.
As the CFDA said, “the Health Initiative is about awareness, education, and safety, not policing.” Because the Fashion Industry does not have to follow these guidelines the same way that they are required to obey state and federal law, this explains why pin-thin models still grace the covers of magazines and walk on runways even if they suffer from eating disorders and or are younger than 16.
“You could book the models and think they’re a certain size, and they turn up on the shoot and suddenly they’ve spun into this anorexic situation. And you’re on the spot and you have to get the job done and you have one day to do it, and what do you do?” Grace Coddington, former model and creative director of American Vogue magazine, said while speaking to a crowd at the New York Public Library in 2009
Coddington’s statement illustrates how it is possible to ignore the guidelines without any repercussions. However, CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg suggested that this season’s guidelines are stricter compared to previous seasons, especially the guideline ensuring that models are at least sixteen years old to be in a fashion show. “Designers share a responsibility to protect women, and very young girls in particular, within the business, sending the message that beauty is health,” Ms. Von Furstenberg said in an email she sent to numerous designers. But how effective is this message if designers allow girls with eating disorders to walk on runways because they do not know “what else to do?”
Of course, the Fashion Industry is not the single cause for the development of eating disorders. According to the CFDA, “Five percent of women in the United States struggle with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, which are both caused by genetics, neurochemistry, personality, weight-conscious occupations, and sociocultural factors.” But medical experts say studies prove there is a correlation between eating disorders and standards of beauty presented by the fashion industry, which is why the CFDA created the Health Initiative.
If there are no consequences for disregarding the CFDA guidelines, it might be necessary to consider other methods of enforcing a healthier standard of beauty within the fashion industry. One possibility could be imposing a minimum BMI (body mass index) requirement on models working the top fashion shows. This is done in Madrid, where the regional government subsidizes the seasonal fashion show. According to the New York Times, “designers in Madrid have little leverage to oppose the restriction because the Madrid government foots the bill for everything except the clothes.” The CFDA is unlikely to impose this type of regulation because Fashion Week in New York is a much more high-profile event than in Madrid, and New York State does not have the same leverage because it does not financially support the shows.
The CFDA’s Health Initiative is growing support from the fashion community, which will most likely remain a self-regulating organization. On February 9, 2012, The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) commended the CFDA for releasing an updated version of the guidelines to ensure the health of runway models during the upcoming New York Fashion Week, February 9th through the 16th.
It is possible that the American fashion industry does not need regulations. As long as designers, casting directors, agents, fashion-magazine editors and show producers promote healthy body types instead of the current ultra-thin ideal, it may not be necessary for the government to ever get involved.
The Hearst Corporation found itself slapped with a lawsuit from a former unpaid intern at Harper’s Bazaar earlier this month. Ohio State University grad Xuedan “Diana” Wang interned at the famous fashion magazine from August 2010 to December 2010 for 40 to 55 hours a week. Now Wang is suing for minimum wage compensation, alleging that Harper’s violated fair labor laws.
Louis Vuitton, one of the world’s premier designer brands, is suing Warner Bros for the use of fake Louis Vuitton luggage in the comedic film “The Hangover Part II.”
Vuitton claims that despite their instructions not to use fake goods in the airport scene in the movie, the studio disregarded the request by filming one of the main characters carrying replica luggage marked “LVM” and proclaiming “Careful, that is a Louis Vuitton.” In their complaint, Louis Vuitton alleges that Warner Bros violated Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act by falsely designating the origin of the goods and thereby leading to consumer confusion. The luxury brand seeks an order from the court mandating the destruction of all copies of “The Hangover Part II” and related promotional materials, as well as profits from the film plus damages.
Louis Vuitton, undoubtedly aggressive in their brand protection strategies, names Diophy, a Chinese American company, as the manufacturer of the counterfeits. The use of knock-off goods undermines the global fight against counterfeits.
No stranger to legal action, Warner Bros recently settled a copyright case for the unauthorized use of Mike Tyson’s tattoo design. In the instant matter, the complaint also alleges unfair competition and trademark dilution. The studio may invoke the affirmative defense of fair use. A parody can use just enough elements of the original to conjure up the original, while at the same time be different enough that it does not lead to consumer confusion. Where a pet product manufacturer, Haute Diggity Dog parodied famous luxury products, the court concluded that the dog toys could not be mistaken for the luxury brand nor did the toys dilute the brand image.
Who will prevail?