Does YSL need to fatten up?

June 18, 2015

As the backlash against size zero continues, Yves Saint Laurent is the latest brand to face criticism over the promotion of an unrealistic body image through their use of extremely thin models.


The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) ruled earlier this month that a YSL advertisement “must not appear again in its current form.” This ruling followed a complaint that the model in question “appeared unhealthily thin”.

The ASA noted that the “model’s pose and the particular lighting effect… drew particular focus to the mode’s chest where her rib cage was visible and appeared prominent”. The chunky platform shoes worn by the model were also deemed to accentuate the slenderness of her legs. The ASA concluded that “the model appeared unhealthily underweight” and the advertisement was held to be irresponsible.

This is not the first time that YSL’s use of very thin models has come under scrutiny. In May 2014 a similar complaint was made about an YSL advertisement which depicted another very thin model. The complainant challenged whether the model was unhealthily thin. In this instance the ASA concluded that, whilst the model was certainly very slim, “she did not appear to be unhealthily underweight.” The advertisement was not held to be irresponsible and no further action was taken.

It appears from the two ASA rulings that whether or not an advertisement will be “irresponsible” will depend on whether the model featured in the advertisement appears healthy. The mere use of a very thin model will not necessarily be enough to breach the Committee of Advertising Practice Code.

In December 2014 the ASA ruled that the use of an image on Urban Outfitters’ website featuring a very slim model was also held to be irresponsible as the model featured was “noticeably underweight”.

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