Bare bones on the fashion billboards

Shock campaign hits a nerve in an industry where skinny is chic
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The Independent Online

The fashion industry likes to shock. But in Milan last week the biggest jolt came not from the catwalks but from billboards dotted around the Italian city. A girl's bony head jutting from an even bonier naked body had the cream of the fashion world spluttering into their proseccos during fashion week.

The model, Isabelle Caro, was posing for the Italian label No-l-ita. Her selling point? An emaciated frame that weighs just 32kg for her 1.65m height. The picture, which will hit Paris billboards for the French capital's fashion week, was shot by the controversial Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani.

In an industry that promotes skinny chic, the campaign has struck a raw nerve. "Anorexia has nothing to do with fashion but is a psychiatric problem," Dolce & Gabbana insisted. Plum Sykes of US Vogue said the photo seems "tasteless and sensationalist", adding: "It's very confusing to young women as it implies the fashion industry is the cause of anorexia, which is an oversimplification of a very serious depressive illness."

Caro, 27, who is French, has battled anorexia for 15 years. She said the No-l-ita shoot would help "warn young people about how lethal this disease is". She told Italian Vanity Fair she had starved herself to please her mother, who she felt disapproved of her escalating weight as a teenager.

Carla Bevan, online editor at Marie Claire, said the picture had "got people talking, which is a good thing".

Caro is just as open: "I've hidden myself for too long. Now I want to show myself fearlessly, even though I know my body arouses repugnance." And since the photoshoot four months ago, she has put on 4kg; she even likes ice cream now.

Eating disorders are estimated to affect around 1.15 million people in the UK, 12 per cent of whom are male. Most vulnerable are teenage girls: seven in every 1,000 15-year-old girls suffer from anorexia nervosa, and three in every 1,000 of all women. Shockingly, anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, at 20 per cent.