On Tuesday, a Gap store display in London stopped Alice Taylor in her tracks. Taylor, the founder of MakieLab.com, an online gaming company, was not bowled over by the fashion sense of the store. Instead, she was appalled by the size of the mannequin.
On the “Always Skinny” jeans display, a barely there mannequin poses above the shoppers. “I was amazed that they would advertise such skinny legs — skinnier than a healthy [Body Mass Index] person, and even skinnier than someone already underweight. This is anorexia-thin,” Taylor wrote in an e-mail two days later.
The British fashion community has been accused of promoting anorexia before. In 2009, the Royal College of Psychiatrists said Fashion Week promoted the disease with its ultra-thin models. That same year, a fashion designer’s decision to use size 12 and 14 models on the runway stirred up controversy. The British Fashion Council banned models with a BMI of under 16. A woman's healthy body mass index (BMI) is between 18.5 and 25.
The Gap mannequins are not the only skinny shapes to stir up controversy in stores. The popular British clothing line TopShop had to pull magazine ads in February that featured a thin model after complaints by anorexic support groups.
As for the Gap mannequins, Taylor says, it’s not enough to just stop shopping at the store. “By promoting ‘Always Skinny’ and these anorexic mannequins by the front door of their entrance onto the busiest shopping street in London, GAP is promoting an illness as something to aspire to.”
Gap has not returned our calls for comments.