It was the real models that first got me buying from Boden when their first women’s catalogue came out just over 20 years ago. Their range wasn’t entirely to my taste – it was full of chunky cords for jolly country types, and moleskin wasn’t really my thing – but I admired the fact that they used ordinary-looking friends and family to model the clothes.
Since then I’ve stuck with Boden through thick and thin, through the days of the dodgy prints and the tiresomely smug fun facts about the models (for inevitably, as the business grew, the friends-and-family thing had to give way to professional models). As the years passed the brand got better and better, and many of their recent lines have been really pretty great. My very favourite boots – known as my Fun Boots as I always have fun when I wear them – are from Boden, as is the velvet jacket that I wear with pretty much everything.
Even though they started using models, Boden didn’t ever go in for rake-thin, catwalk types. Johnnie Boden was quoted as saying he liked to portray women “who you could sit next to at dinner and have a good time with, even if you had a huge spot on your nose”. My kind of girl, in other words.
So it’s with a heavy heart that I’m chucking the latest Boden catalogue into the fire without ordering the flagrantly sexy boots that would bring even more fun into my life, or the desirable party frock that would complete the outfit. But I feel I have no choice. The reason I’m parting company with Boden after all this time is the models they’ve recently taken to using. Some of them are – to put it bluntly – just too thin.
Yes, I know the industry reveres skinny models. I’m well aware that still – maddeningly – thin is in. And for the most part I can live with that. But some of these women are in a different league altogether. A couple of them look like they’re a skipped lunch away from a hospital admission. I know a thing or two about eating disorders, and I’m all too familiar with that look. The sunken face. The jutting cheekbones. The colt-like limbs with missing spaces where there should be flesh.
Of course these girls may be naturally skinny – some people are. They may – just may – be perfectly healthy, and I sincerely hope, for their sake, that they are. But that’s not the point. The point is that they don’t look healthy. The message this sends is just wrong. If you display your clothes on models who have a BMI that on anyone else would put them in the dangerously underweight category, it’s telling the world that this is how your customers should look. And it’s desperately disappointing in a brand that has always prided itself on its healthy-looking models
So sorry, Johnnie. It’s been great, and I still love your boots, but it’s over between us. I guess, for now, I’ll just have to find my fun elsewhere.
P.S. I haven’t illustrated this post with pictures of the models in question. It’s partly for copyright reasons, but mostly because pictures of ultra-thin people can be dangerously triggering to anyone struggling with an eating disorder. I don’t want to be part of the problem.