Fashion Industry Icons Zac Posen & Joe Zee On Playing Their Part In The Body Image Revolution

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A true revolution means everyone is on board and benefits. While we have made women’s body image one of our main focuses on the site, we have also started to recognize and promote how important it is to have men’s voices not just part of the conversation, but pushing the momentum forward alongside women.

It’s not just about discussing male body image, which as we can see is becoming revolutionized as evidenced by the world’s largest modelling agency signing its first male plus size model for its newly created Brawn division. It’s about influential men in the industry understanding the need for revolutionizing the way we view body image as well.

Two of those said influencers are designer Zac Posen, and former Elle Magazine editor turned Yahoo Style editor-in-chief Joe Zee. In a recent interview with People Magazine, Zac Posen admitted that it is the responsibility of the fashion industry to evolve and take the lead on the increasing demand for body diversity.

“I’ve always dressed women of all body types, of all races and all ages — and that is part of my success. I don’t think many brands do this but it is essential for me,” he said.

Part of that is for industry power players to recognize the change that is happening in order to stay relevant.

“The body type ideal has continuously changed over history. Ideals change. It is up to fashion, something I call ‘fashion-tainment’ to change this and guide this. There are great moves and strides that the media industry and the fashion industry could be taking (to include all body types),” he continued.

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He also claims that the industry could very well be the catalyst in normalizing diversity due to the immense platform and power it has as a whole.

“The editorial message can change and evolve — and if you create that ‘it’ moment — that can change a whole culture,” he said.

Rivkie Baum, Editor of SLiNK Magazine in the UK told The Huffington Post how important it is to see such a well-known designer speak the truth about the responsibility and power the industry has to push change.

“So often when we discuss ‘who is to blame’ or ‘who can make a change’ designers stay silent. Often designers are scared to buck the trend or some simply don’t believe in designing for a diverse customer but here Zac shows just why he has been so successful,” she said.

“While high end fashion is often seen as simply ‘fantasy’, Zac recognizes that not only does it have real influential and social power but it is simply also good business sense to create fashion for a diverse market of women,” she added.

And Zac Posen is certainly not the only guy who recognizes that it’s time for the fashion industry to s**t or get off the pot, so to speak. Joe Zee was interviewed by AOL.com and talked about how the onset of digital mediums and the internet has played a part in allowing for the change in body standards that we are seeing today, largely fueled by the voice of everyday people.

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“There wasn’t much of a diversity in terms of body types for a long time, through the ’90s and through the 2000s even…It was more in recent years with the onset of Internet, and different mediums, definitely digital and definitely broadcast, with all these things are coming together, that changed it. I think people in fashion are just finally waking up to the fact that there is a lot more diversity in body types, and people are celebrating it,” he said.

“I think social media played a lot of roles in terms of opening the discussion…I don’t know that anybody’s saying, oh we’re going to have diverse bodies because of social media, but I think social media is causing people to shed light on the situation and say, we do actually have to represent more people – look at all these women that are feeling left out because now they have a voice to say it. Previously, when I worked in the 90s, if women felt left out, how the hell would you know? It was in a vacuum. And now it’s out there,” he added.

He does admit there is a long way to go but points to models like Ashley Graham, who has become a figure head of how curvier models are starting to allow integration of plus size models into the mainstream so that eventually they don’t have to be labeled in such a way. One of the methods he takes issue with is how magazines have in the past done the token “ethnic” or “plus size” edition, which he says doesn’t exactly change anything, because it is still making them “other”.

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“You’re shining light on the diversity issue which is fantastic, but you’re also grouping everybody together and then throwing it at once – for one time only – on the cover as a gimmick. I hope one day, and you know this is with Hollywood, too, and not just fashion – I just hope that everything can be casted in a very sort of color blind/body blind type of way, where, if Ashley’s the best person for that story, Ashley’s the best person for that story. Not that we’re necessarily looking for a curvy girl or a straight girl,” he said.

It is important that he draws comparisons with Hollywood, where casting has become such a divisive process due to decades and decades of perceptions of character and legitimacy have become so closely intertwined with race or gender.

“It should just be, ‘Oh, I just love her!’ And bam, she’s casted. You know? And I think that has a lot to do with Hollywood as well. That role should just go to whoever’s best for that role. Not necessarily cast it where you’re looking for someone who’s blonde, in their 30s,” Joe said.

Another woman he mentions who has heightened the conversation about body image on a mass pop culture level is Kim Kardashian West. The recent internet-breaking she caused by posting a nude picture, then following it up with another nude selfie alongside model/actress Emily Ratajkowski, showed just how aware we are about our bodies more so with the advent of social media.

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“People will always have strong opinions about anything to do with our bodies but it made us all start talking about how important our bodies are. Personally I loved that [Kim’s selfie] was really about the body and how great she looked and how that is creating a conversation. The bigger discussion about body is just becoming louder and louder and I’m glad we are having it. I love that Kim picture for that reason,” he said.

He touches on a very important point about the whole Kim KW controversy. Aside from the constant barrage of think-pieces that explode all over the internet after she simple takes a nude photo of herself, it really does hone in on how we have become so trained to judge women according to their bodies, and judge by one particular standard. Let’s be clear, Kim isn’t necessarily that model standard, which is why she has become so “disruptive” – she is part of the movement that is celebrating a body for the way it is, and attaching it to the idea of autonomy and the woman as a whole, as opposed to the way the fashion industry has traditionally (and still does in many respects) positions women’s bodies as a tool for sexualization for the male gaze or selling a product.

This is what Joe Zee wants to see more of, making fashion an industry where all body sizes are celebrated and we don’t have to be offended when a woman “outside” the norms celebrates who she is.

“At the end of the day, it’s all just a size. Whether you’re 0 or 24, that’s just a size. I love the idea of making fashion democratic. Fashion wasn’t really like that before the Internet. Here’s a chance that the conversation’s actually getting more democratic than ever before. And I think that’s great. I love it when it’s inclusive versus exclusive. And we’ve worked so hard to make it exclusive in the past, but that’s just not the world we live in anymore,” he said.

These are important conversations we need to keep having, and it’s also equally paramount to have everyone’s voices included, not just women.

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