Inside Cologne’s Laxness Arena, a 15,000-strong crowd of fashionistas eagerly awaited the arrival of Stefanie Giesinger. The lithe 17-year-old from Kaiserslautern was about to be declared winner of “Germany’s Next Top Model” – an annual event hosted by the nation’s fashion trade entrepreneur, and veteran supermodel, Heidi Klum.
Barely a mile away last Thursday, 120 onlookers stood in drizzling rain to watch an impromptu show by “Pinkstinks” in front of Cologne’s famous cathedral. The group is committed to exposing what it claims is the fashion industry’s brainwashing and exploitation of young women. It recently protested against the opening of a “Barbie Doll” museum for young girls in Berlin. “Nobody has the right to do business with the dreams, the search for identity and uncertainties of young girls,” an angry Pinkstinks spokeswoman said.
The German media takes such accusations seriously. Five years ago the women’s magazine Brigitte decided to stop using waif-like models for its fashion pages and recruit “real people” instead, with chubbier non-models from all walks of life advertising clothes. But Brigitte has abandoned the concept after subscription rates dropped by around 22 per cent.