Why is the death of this particular model so poignant? Well, because Isabelle suffered from anorexia -- she, like so many in the fashion and entertainment industry, was the victim of a mentality that needs to stop. The mentality that to be beautiful, one must be thin.
From the early couturier houses in France, the need for a model to be thin can be documented. But there was a reason for that -- rations, manhours, expense, and the simple fact that the industry then was an 1/8 of the size it is today. Say you are starting a fashion house in the early 20th century, we've been through one war and about to enter into another one. You have little money, maybe one backer, a cramped room full of seamstresses that need pay, and, if you are a lucky, a small list of clients. Makes sense for your models to all be a size six, no? Less cloth? Less time on the machines? A quicker line to walk out to a potential buyer? Sure. I can appreciate that.
But we aren't exactly in those times now are we? And to throw in more causation, we certainly didn't have the media then that we have now. So you then throw in the Karl Lagerfeld's (who seems to be changing ever so slowly on this subject) and the Kate Moss' with their elite commentary on how important it is to be skinny and it makes the rounds to hundreds of thousands of young girls and women and you have yourself an epidemic of eating disorders, dysmorphia, obsession, body issues and low self-esteem.
Thankfully there are some in the industry that are doing things to change the perception of what makes a model, or a woman, beautiful. Those people I salute. But it's not enough. There needs to be an all out strike when fashion industry insiders take time away from the Starbucks or Grey Goose long enough to insult a 14 year-old reading Vogue in Wisconsin who then decides not to eat for a week.
Or, as in the case of Isabelle, a law needs to be passed. After losing friends to the disease and struggling with it herself, she offended the Milan fashion set in 2007 with these No Anorexia Ads:
Additionally, Isabelle was lobbying the French government to pass a law that would prohibit models from working in the fashion industry if they did not weigh enough. Her bravery, amazing. Her death, unnecessary.
Surely her passing will not be in vain and the example she was trying to set in France will resonant in the other fashion capitals. If not, I feel even more sorry for what we are doing not only to the beauty and innovation that is/was the fashion industry, but what we continue to do to our kids. And, let's face it, the adults. Afterall, we are just kids in grown-up skin.
Be healthy but most importantly, be you. That's really the most beautiful thing you can do. Let Isabelle be a reminder to us all that fighting for what you believe, standing up against antiquated principles, and embracing who you are are what make us strong and beautiful -- it's quite simply not your dress size.