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Ashley Olsen, Robin Givhan, and Isaac Mizrahi Talk Skinny Models, Celebrity Designers, and Runway Diversity

>> Last night at the 92nd Street Y in New York, Ashley Olsen, the Washington Post's Robin Givhan, and Isaac Mizrahi gathered to chat with Glamour's Cindi Leive about the "Future of Fashion."  Ashley, dressed in a long dress — a production sample from The Row — told Glamour backstage: "I'm actually not very comfortable with public speaking, and that was something I told myself I'd work on — getting out more and doing some public speaking."

Her "number one teammate," sister Mary-Kate, and boyfriend Justin Bartha were in the audience to cheer her on as she doled out tidbits like The Row's clients are an average age of 50, she thinks girls with small budgets who want to be fashionable should shop vintage, and she loves her Toms shoes: "So comfortable." Isaac Mizrahi helped keep the tone light — at one point, he took of his shoes to show off his toes, painted a "day-glo pumpkin" color, but the panel did delve into some heavy topics.

The highlights »

On what fashion magazines are doing wrong:

Isaac Mizrahi: "They're too obsessed with movie stars. I like models, too."

On why fashion is so hated:

Robin Givhan: "It's just really easy to hate. Part of it is cultural. In the US we don't think of it in the same category as other visual arts. People condescend to fashion because it's a women's industry. People would never say spending thousands of dollars on season tickets for football tickets is shallow or ridiculous, but spending $5,000 on a dress . . ."

IM: “Right on! Misogyny rears its ugly head again!”

On receiving design criticism:

Ashley Olsen: "I don't pay attention at all. I don't go on the Internet, I don't read magazines at all."

On the plethora of overly-thin models:

RG: "In the last decade, there's been an extreme reaction to models, who've gone from a size six to a four, two, zero . . . but no one has stopped buying clothes because of models. They've stopped because of the economy."

On the the whirlwind fashion cycle:

AO: "The Row currently has three [store] deliveries a year, we want to add two more. I struggle with how many deliveries to make for Elizabeth and James to stay on trend."

IM: "Your store is like a produce department. You always want to keep fresh, beautiful produce in it. I don't think Fall, Spring anymore, just twelve months a year."

On whether Michelle Obama or the recession has made designers change their thinking:

RG: "After spending three weeks looking at runway shows, I have to say I don't think that designers have shifted their thinking. To see Balmain eighties shoulders and rock-and-roll jeans with chain mail in them doesn't make me think that anything has necessarily shifted because of our First Lady. The fact is that we're all still clinging to this idealized woman. And as much as designers love and rave about Michelle Obama, when it comes down to who is that fantasy woman that they are connecting to, pining for, putting their clothes on for a fashion show, she's still five foot ten, a size 2, and about 21 on a good day . . . 16 on a bad day."

On celebrity designers:

AO: "A lot of celebrities get involved because they get a licensing partner, want to slap their name on clothes, and it will add to their brand. And for us, it was totally different. That wasn't my point. For me, when I look at it as a celebrity brand, it's almost silly to me, because I'm not coming at it from a celebrity standpoint [since she got out of acting at 18]."

On runway diversity:

RG: "The industry is remiss considering that it has become so global.  But for a lot of design houses, i.e. Prada or Jil Sander, it's an aesthetic decision. They wanted their models to be automatons — they pick one girl and keep matching her, so all the attention is on the clothes.  But I think it does a disservice. You could vote with your dollars, but I think that's unrealistic.  Advertising hits more people, and you see more diversity there."

IM: "Honestly, I've actually booked girls [for runway] that weren't obese, they were real girls. Like gorgeous anatomy. And one was a stripper. And you could feel the energy in the room just go down. Closed the books. Pens went down. They were angry. I could feel the anger. And I never did it again, because I thought 'Why bother?' It takes a lot to rile women. It takes like actual breasts. Someone with implants, they're fine. Yes, you're right. Fashion advertisements are hateful. Hateful. Yeah, but they wouldn't do it unless it worked, right? It works."

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