France’s ultra-thin ideal is passe but not a problem says plus-size model

By Marc Burleigh and Anne-Laure Mondesert, AFP

PARIS–France’s waif obsession means its fashion sector snubs many women with bigger body types, but there is no need for a ban on ultra-thin models, said the patron of a plus-size Paris catwalk show under way this weekend. ��It’s a cultural blockage,�� explained Clementine Desseaux, a 26-year-old French model who lives in New York. The size-44 brunette gets year-round catalog and campaign modeling work in the U.S., where she emigrated four years ago, compared to rare jobs in France as American department stores recognize that most women aren’t slim, she says. ��In the United States, it’s a market apart. You can make a career as a plus-size model. In France, it’s not a career, it’s a hobby; there are no clients�� Desseaux said. But, she added, ��it’s not for lack of demand: there are a lot of round women here. Parisian women are round, too. You mustn’t think they are all small and thin!�� The data back her up. According to the French Institute for Textile and Clothing, size 40 is the most-sold size in France, and 40 percent of Frenchwomen wear size 44 or over. Third Pulp Fashion Week

In an effort to rebalance the scales, Desseaux is the star model at the third Pulp Fashion Week, an event held over Saturday and Sunday in Paris that features larger women on the catwalk. Twenty-four models will be walking the podium in some 20 labels to show that fashion is not only for the slimmest of customers. Such initiatives are also held in the U.S., United Kingdom and Germany, with greater success. The organizer of the Paris event, Blanche Kazi, said the refusal by major plus-size fashion labels was the main stumbling block.

��They are the ones who could really shake things up with big sponsor budgets and financial partnerships,�� she said. She and the models, though, are determined to instill a sense of pride in plus-size women in France, and to push French clothing stores to cater to larger sizes. ��Here, the image of big-size women is horrible. There’s a lot of work to be done,�� Desseaux said. ��I want to make things change. One day I’d like to return to Paris, but I’m not ready yet.�� In France, the model said, ��I don’t fit into anything. And yet, I’m not huge. In the United States, I fit into size M or L. There are a lot more sizes �X nothing stops at size 42 in the U.S.�� Against Ban on Thin Models