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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 February 2007, 10:39 GMT
Milan fashion diary
Italy's top fashion houses have signed an "anti-anorexia" manifesto with the government, promising to employ only healthy models. Maddy Savage of BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat and producer Chi Chi Izundu see how the new regime is going at Milan Fashion Week.


We've been chasing top fashion magazine people for our latest feature on what it's like to work on a monthly glossy. They've had a bad press lately, after The Devil Wears Prada movie and the current fuss about the comedy Ugly Betty.

BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat's Maddy Savage
Maddy Savage reports behind-the-scenes at the Milan show
Glamour magazine's editor Jo Elvin looked very glamorous as she was taking notes in the front row at one show.

But the top fashion bod we've been trying to track down for days is Elle's Fashion Director Anne Marie Curtis. She's used to the "Italian time" here and finally turned up to meet us an hour late. To be precise, we got 12 minutes of her time as she dashed between Giorgio Armani and Just Cavalli collections.

Her assistant's still in London, fielding calls and setting up appointments for the rest of the week, though she does fly out to join her tomorrow.

Anne Marie reckons TV and film give an exaggerated, one-dimensional version of the fashion world. But working for a senior boss like herself, she says, is "not a 9 to 5 job... there's often events after work... you have to be prepared to sort of do pretty much anything". Including delivering regular lattes to her desk? "Yeah, there are days when I need my assistant to do numerous tasks. But I would say going to get someone's latte is only a tiny part of the job. I don't drink lattes anyway." In fact, only peppermint tea will do.

Elle magazine is known for using models with more natural, curvy figures. Anne Marie promised that focus would continue. Naomi Campbell's just been named their model of the year. "She encompasses that Elle spirit of being healthy and gorgeous and very womanly".

But most of the girls we've spoken to behind the catwalk say that's not the look they're going for.


After all our work speaking to models backstage, we've actually managed to catch a few catwalk shows from inside the auditoriums.

La Perla show at Milan fashion week
La Perla put the lace on the outside
Moschino showcased bold patterned dresses with big sleeves, and huge feathered headresses - a taste of the glamour Milan Fashion Week usually gets coverage for.

Champagne, baby burgers and heart-shaped sandwiches also set the tone.

But once again, the volume of food available was sparse for the hundreds of people that cram into shows like this. From what we've experienced food isn't a priority for the fashion industry.

At 2pm the cafe sandwich counter in the main complex was bare again.

At the La Perla show this afternoon, the lace you usually see on their underwear was a prominent trend on coats and little black dresses.

The models on the catwalk were as thin as ever.

One, struggling in her platform shoes, tripped as her long skirt trailed on the catwalk.

She salvaged her dignity quickly. But it was a touch of normality in our increasingly shocking experience of the fashion world.


We're gradually getting our heads around "Italian time". Most of the fashion shows start up to an hour late. The models spend ages just waiting around.

Julie in her apartment
Julie says she doesn't know what her Body Mass Index is
But as we have discovered, being bored doesn't encourage them to eat. Cappuccino and cigarettes are on order throughout though.

We spent some time with 17-year-old Julie from the Czech Republic. Like many of the models here, she's sharing an apartment with six other girls. It's in a dark alley in a part of town we didn't find too friendly.

A fellow catwalk girl, Star, says Julie is great to share with.

"Of course we have our fights - a bunch of female models in an apartment is never a good idea, but we make it work," she says.

And Julie does eat, apparently. Another friend backed up her claims she ate tiramisu, lemon sorbet and ice cream all in the same day once. The flat is full of cake, cheese and popcorn. But for all her talking of food, we don't spot Julie munching on much. Backstage, she told us she'd had some appetisers for lunch and it was sushi for dinner.

Towards the end of the day it was confession time. Julie used to be anorexic. Her mum helped her through it. She's never seen a doctor.

As we leave, her flatmate calls out: "Julie is so thin, just look at her ribcage."

Julie says she doesn't know her Body Mass Index or even her weight because she never checks.

"I do walk a lot, we have 10 castings a day... so that helps to keep skinny," she says.


Arguments about size zero models have been raging in London and New York. But has anything on the catwalk really changed?

Models in Milan
Designers are promoting a "generous Mediterranean beauty"
The Italian manifesto was supposed to be binding: agencies and designers linked to them would send all their models to get checked out by doctors. They'd promote a "healthy, sunny, generous Mediterranean beauty".

Okay, so there were no plans for a full-on ban on super-skinnies like in Madrid, but Body Mass Index (BMI) would be taken into account when hiring models.

Italy seemed a step ahead as other countries were scrambling to come up with last-minute guidelines.

The plans still looked good on Saturday when we arrived to watch the first show - a "plus-size" collection by Elena Miro.

Gorgeous, voluptuous Italian models got huge cheers.

The goodie bags were stuffed with chocolates, not the slimming pills found in some in New York.

The clothes included very wearable shift dresses and coats, with high-waist leather belts to flatter a fuller figure.

Model in Milan
Milan is showcasing women's autumn-winter collections
Italy's Minister for Youth Policies, Giovanna Melandri, gave a speech recognising models as key icons for young girls, and promising to police the fashion houses to make sure they were sticking to the manifesto.

Backstage the models told a different story. We couldn't find a single one who'd been to see a doctor beforehand.

Some knew their BMI was below the 18.5 cut-off imposed in Spain. Others spoke of friends with severe anorexia, making themselves sick daily and living on salad.

Many thought the guidelines were a good idea, but few thought they would really work. Industry self-regulation was viewed by most as synonymous with media and government hype about vague promises.

Around 2pm we went to get some lunch. The counters in both cafes were bare; all the sandwiches had sold out in the first five minutes apparently and they weren't expecting any more. We revisited one of our models.

She said she'd had some sweets for lunch because there wasn't much else around.

Apart from an old man's bar across the road, the nearest cafe was a 15-minute walk away. We were the only ones in there.

A catwalk show with a conscience
16 Feb 07 |  Magazine
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12 Feb 07 |  Entertainment
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