Asda accused of 'exploitation' in launching size-zero range

Paul Bignell
Sunday 04 February 2007 01:00
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A health expert yesterday condemned Britain's second-biggest supermarket chain, Asda, after the company announced it is to stock size-zero clothes.

In an open letter to the fashion industry, seen exclusively by The Independent on Sunday, Professor Janet Treasure, of the eating disorders unit at King's College London, accused Asda of exploiting for profit young women's obsession with appearing thin.

Professor Treasure said designers expected the public to change to fit the shape of their clothes, rather than changing their designs to suit healthier bodies. She believes designers are influencing fashion retailers like Asda, owned by the US giant Wal-Mart, to produce clothes in smaller sizes.

She said: "From the timing of Asda's announcement it seems like they have seen a market forming. They obviously don't want to miss out on an opportunity for free advertising, even at the cost of public health."

The supermarket chain will stock size-zero clothes - the equivalent of British size 4 - in its new G21 range from fashion label George. It will be the first mainstream collection in the UK to include clothes that go down to a size 4.

The typical waist measurement of the clothes, aimed at the younger end of the market, will be 22 inches - the average size of an eight-year-old girl.

Asda says the collection is inspired by the latest catwalk trends. But the company's decision to stock the range appears to be at odds with its stated public policy, which is opposed to using size-zero models in its advertising.

A spokesman for Asda said: "All [our] adult clothing starts at a size 8 and it is just the G21 range that will have size 4."

Professor Treasure also expressed disappointment in her letter at the British Fashion Council's failure to regulate the weight of models at London Fashion Week, which starts next week.

Meanwhile, a leading mental health charity has conducted research to discover who visits pro-anorexic websites and why. The survey, produced by Sane, found that 40 per cent of those who regularly log on - mainly women aged 22 or younger - believe the sites helped them to become "a better anorexic".

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of Sane, said: "While the sites can assuage the extreme loneliness of many who suffer from eating disorders, particularly adolescent girls, they can become addictive. As one respondent said: 'There's the feeling that one daren't recover, because then you'd no longer belong.'"

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