Professional models barred from German magazine

'Brigitte' recruits ordinary women to star in its fashion shoots

Tony Paterson
Monday 04 January 2010 01:00 GMT

Normally she teaches history at a Hamburg grammar school, but elaborately made up to look like Marlene Dietrich and wearing a €480 (£425) silk dress, Sybille Zschaber was yesterday all over the fashion pages of Germany's most popular women's magazine as it began its ban on professional models.

The 29-year-old blonde teacher was among a cast of more than six "normal women" selected by the mass circulation middle-market Brigitte to pose for its January fashion feature following an editorial pledge by the magazine to keep controversial size-zero models off its pages.

Andreas Lebert, editor of the 700,000-circulation magazine, announced the ban last October after receiving letters from hundreds of women readers who complained that they had no connection with the models shown in the magazine and that they no longer wanted to see "protruding bones".

He claimed that the models Brigitte used for years on its fashion pages were so skinny that editors had to "fatten them up" using Photoshop, the image-manipulation computer software program. "This is disturbing and perverse and what has it got to do with our real readers ?" he asked. Brigitte declared that it would in future invite "normal women" to feature as models on its pages.

"It is not a question of them suddenly becoming models," Mr Lebert said in an interview yesterday. "They simply step out of their normal lives for a moment and present fashion for us as personalities," he insisted.

The magazine's January edition, which went on sale throughout Germany at the weekend, is the first to do so without professional models, although these still appear in advertisements. The women photographed for its fashion feature pages are a deliberately mixed bunch. Apart from Ms Zschaber's attempt at Marlene Dietrich, Brigitte contains glossy images of a 21-year-old hotel receptionist from Capri, a 28-year-old restaurant owner from Hamburg, a 45-year-old Icelandic artist, and a 21-year-old economics student.

Each has clearly received the full attention of professional make-up artists and fashion photographers, yet there is the odd detail that reveals the models are amateur, not professional: the Capri receptionist has a slight paunch and the 45-year-old Icelandic artist has a face well-endowed with wrinkles. But many of the others might be mistaken for professionals at first glance.

Brigitte launched its "normal women as models" campaign late last year and claims that some 20,000 of the magazine's readers have since put themselves forward as potential candidates. The magazine says that it pays its amateurs professional rates

The magazine's campaign has already provoked controversy. Karl Lagerfeld, the veteran German fashion guru, has described those who criticise so-called skinny models as "fat, chip-eating mummies" and claims that much of the objection to them is sheer jealousy. "Nobody wants to see a round woman," the 71-year-old designer insisted.

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