As London fashion week opens, Rosie Nelson and Jada Sezer have joined a Womens Equality party campaign to tackle the use of tiny clothing sizes, underweight models and the resulting crisis of eating disorders
Grains for breakfast, vegetables for lunch, smoked salmon for dinner. No wheat, no dairy, no sugar; 45 minutes of exercise every day. Its a draconian and unbalanced regime even for someone with a sensible reason to lose excess weight. If youre a 21-year-old who weighs eight stone, its clearly both unnecessary and profoundly unhealthy. And yet this was Rosie Nelsons daily intake and expenditure of energy for four months back in 2014, as a result of a visit to one of the countrys most powerful modelling agencies.
Nelson had started modelling work at the age of 18, when her body was still developing. When she moved from her native Australia to Britain, her intention was to continue. And the agency in question liked her look except for the fact that she was, they said, too big. Specifically her hips, which were around the 37- or 38-inch mark, but needed to shrink to 35.
I ask Nelson, now 24 and still modelling, what that moment felt like. You get sucked into thinking that what they say is the only way to be, she replies. They control your life. Theyre getting you your jobs, theyre providing you with your income, and you become like a slave to it. The industrys so consuming that you forget about the real world. In the real world Im incredibly thin, but in the modelling world Im still too big. So when they asked me to lose weight, I accepted it. But worse was to come. Grains consumed, exercise taken, social life shunned, she slimmed her hips down to 35 inches and went back to the agency.
They said, just lose more weight get down to the bone, remembers Nelson. They pressed on my hips and I just sat there thinking, no, I cant. I cant physically lose more weight. I was in shock. I didnt know what to say.
It turned out to be a pivotal moment. In its aftermath, Nelson decided she couldnt return to her previous weight-loss programme, which she describes as a horrible routine of essentially killing myself.
She started working with smaller agencies, where she was encouraged to remain at a healthy weight. At the same time she began to speak and write about her experiences, committed to raising awareness of the potentially destructive power the fashion industry wields. Thats why, after a days work, she has joined Sophie Walker, leader of the Womens Equality party (WEP), and Jada Sezer, a plus-size model on the verge of launching her own clothing range, to talk about WEPs forthcoming campaign, which will operate on social media under the hashtag #NoSizeFitsAll.
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