If you asked people at random to describe Filippa Hamilton in a word, you’d hear a lot of synonyms for “gorgeous.” What you wouldn’t hear is “fat.”
And yet the 5-foot-10-inch, 120-pound model says that is essentially why she was fired by Ralph Lauren after eight years with the fashion designer.
“They said I couldn’t fit in their clothes anymore,” the size 4 stunner told TODAY’s Ann Curry Wednesday in New York. Hamilton said that Lauren wrote a letter to her agent saying, “We’re terminating your services because you don’t fit into the sample clothes that you need to wear.”
Ralph Lauren denied that she was fired for being too large.
“We consider her an important part of our imaging and branding,” the designer said in a statement to the media. “We regret that our relationship has ended as a result of her inability to meet the obligations under her contract with us.” (Read the company's full statement here.)
Hamilton denied not meeting her obligations to a company that she called her second family.
“I did everything that I could. I was very loyal to them. I was on time every time,” Hamilton told Curry.
The 23-year-old Swedish-French model, who had been working for Lauren since she was 15, told Curry that Ralph Lauren fired her in April through her agency. She said she had no intention of going public with her complaint, but changed her mind when a Photoshopped image of her in a mall in Japan showed up on the Internet site BoingBoing.com.
“They Photoshopped her in a way that for me is grotesque and makes her look like a cartoon,” Geoffrey Menin, Hamilton’s attorney, told NBC News. “The trouble is that it’s damaging to her. Who wants to hire somebody that looks like that?”
Ralph Lauren quickly removed the ad and moved legally to demand that the images be taken off the Web. “We have learned that we are responsible for the poor imaging and retouching that resulted in a very distorted image of a woman’s body,” the company said in a statement.
Despite the disclaimer, Hamilton said the distorted image moved her to speak out.
“It’s not a good example when you see this picture, every young woman is going to look at it and think that it is normal to look like that. It’s not,” she told Curry. “I saw my face on this super-extremely skinny girl, which is not me. It makes me sad. It makes me think that Ralph Lauren wants to have this kind of image. It’s an American brand ... and it’s not healthy, and it’s not right.”
She said being let go was an emotional blow. “I was very sad. I’ve been working with them since I was 15 years old. For me, they were my second family, so I was very hurt by this,” Hamilton said.
Fashion’s ‘vicious circle’
The thought that she is too fat to model is also devastating. Others in the industry agree.
Leslie Goldman, a body image expert, told NBC News: “The thought of this model being too fat is laughable. When you see her, she’s extremely tall and extremely thin. She has a perfect model’s body, but apparently not perfect enough.”
Kate White, the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, joined Hamilton and Curry and agreed with Goldman. White said that the problem is something of a vicious circle.
“It really starts with the sample clothes. They’ve downsized. They’re now like a 2 or a 4. In some degree it relates to the Kate era,” she said, referring to Kate Moss, the super-thin supermodel whose career began in 1988 at the age of 14. “Before then, supermodels like Cindy Crawford and Christie Brinkley — they were really curvy. But they got skinnier and skinnier. The clothes got smaller. So it creates this cycle where you have to fit in the clothes to get the job, and then the models get smaller and that’s who we have to use in the fashion stories.”
White said that despite some recent efforts to show normal women in fashion magazines, women have to force the industry to change.
“I think women have to protest, and back it up, because sometimes women say they want real girls in stories, but often those stories don’t rate as well, and if you put a heavy celebrity on the cover, it may not sell as well,” White said. “Women have to complain and then back it up with their actions — with their pocketbooks.”