Oct 19 2009, Montreal (National Post) – A decision by retailer La Maison Simons to denounce its own fashion catalogue for using too-thin models and withdraw it from the marketplace was hailed by Quebec’s health minister and an eating-disorder expert.
On the heels of complaints about a junior women’s fashion catalogue, company president Peter Simons said he pulled the catalogue in a bid to remove images from the public domain that are “unsuitable” and don’t align with his company’s values.
The 36-page colour catalogue — with a print run of about 450,000 — features Simons’ Twik brand and photographs of thin, young women, who display more bone than flesh.
Those images are “destructive to a more vulnerable portion of the population which is exposed to anorexia,” Simons told Canwest News Service from his office in Quebec City.
The family-owned chain has seven stores in Quebec with roots in the province going back to the early 1840s.
“We are into social responsibility here. I’m fully aware of what it is and I’m taking full responsibility for (the catalogue). It’s my job to ensure that we are a constructive actor in the community,” Simons said.
“I should have done better. I should have seen it.”
He added: “Yesterday, I talked to a woman who lost her sister to bulimia. … That just touches home.”
Simons said he doesn’t know at this point how much the cancellation will cost. The catalogue went out last week in newspapers and was also to be used in stores. Simons’ move entailed removing the remainder of the English and French press runs from stores and further distribution.
Quebec Health Minister Yves Bolduc congratulated the company for reacting promptly to the complaints. “Anorexia is a serious issue, and I think Mr. Simons did the right thing. It sends a message to the teenagers that they can be healthy, have a suitable weight, and that they don’t need to be ultra-slim,” Bolduc said Wednesday.
Dr. Alain Pavilanis, of McGill University’s department of family medicine, has treated patients suffering from an array of eating disorders including anorexia nervosa, a disorder characterized by a distorted sense of body image, marked weight loss from self-imposed starvation, and a morbid fear of obesity. “Advertising and social pressure do not cause anorexia nervosa but do appear to be important triggers and important factors,” said Pavilanis, now the head of the teaching facility of St. Mary’s Hospital.