CFDA CEO Steven Kolb on Controversial Organic Ave Collab: 'We Are Not Promoting a Juice Only Diet'

Last week, the CFDA announced it was partnering with Organic Avenue to provide models with support and education as well as a 50% discount on all the retailer's food and juices during fashion week through March 31. The collaboration comes after models complained about the "difficulty of finding food that is both nutritious and convenient" during fashion week, and is part of the CFDA's ongoing efforts to address the working conditions models face and raise awareness about eating disorders within the industry. The program has already faced severe criticism from numerous mainstream media outlets. But, in our opinion, it's for all the wrong reasons.
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Hayley Phelan
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Last week, the CFDA announced it was partnering with Organic Avenue to provide models with support and education as well as a 50% discount on all the retailer's food and juices during fashion week through March 31. The collaboration comes after models complained about the "difficulty of finding food that is both nutritious and convenient" during fashion week, and is part of the CFDA's ongoing efforts to address the working conditions models face and raise awareness about eating disorders within the industry. The program has already faced severe criticism from numerous mainstream media outlets. But, in our opinion, it's for all the wrong reasons.
Photo: Getty

Photo: Getty

Last week, the CFDA announced it was partnering with Organic Avenue to provide models with support and education as well as a 50% discount on all the retailer's food and juices during fashion week through March 31.

The collaboration comes after models complained about the "difficulty of finding food that is both nutritious and convenient" during fashion week, and is part of the CFDA's ongoing efforts to address the working conditions models face and raise awareness about eating disorders within the industry.

The program has already faced severe criticism from numerous mainstream media outlets. But, in our opinion, it's for all the wrong reasons.

The most recent article, by ABC news, ran with the headline "Critics Decry Designers for Offering Discounted Juice Cleanses to Models."

"Sending a model to a juice cleanse place is like sending an alcoholic to a bar," America's Next Top Model winner and National Eating Disorders Association ambassador Whitney Thompson told ABC of the partnership. "It's baiting them."

Except that this new partnership is not a juice cleanse.

"The relationship is 50% off anything sold at Organic Avenue and not just juices," CFDA CEO Steven Kolb wrote to us in an email. "We are not promoting a juice only diet."

Yes, Organic Avenue offers juices and yes, it offers juice cleanses. But it also has a wide variety of (yes, super healthy) food, from salads to burritos, and even desserts like chocolate mousse. I can personally attest, as someone who has never done a juice cleanse and never been interested in doing one, that OA's food is delicious.

"Organic Avenue is well known in the fashion industry and we believe they are aligned with our message of beauty is health," Kolb said. "They have amazing salad, soups, wraps, and tacos."

Furthermore, the collaboration is meant to supplement a model's diet, not replace it--though this is how many outlets have spun the story to up the outrage.

To add to the confusion, ABC extraneously brings up the Master Cleanse, which has dieters subsisting on lemon juice and cayenne pepper and taking laxatives at night, and is widely thought of as being an unhealthy detox program. The article goes on to quote ANTM's Thompson as saying, "It's not uncommon to see models fainting, eating a single blueberry to get through a show."

The presence of eating disorders is a serious and complicated problem in the modeling industry--and it's one that's not going to go away over night, or even within the next few years. The bottom line is that, until designers, editors, and the general public start demanding models bigger than a size 00, models will continue to go to great lengths to keep their weight down.

That's also why I personally think this collaboration with Organic Avenue makes sense. If the CFDA had partnered with a company that offered less-healthy food, many models might avoid eating there. It might have made their public image better (i.e. "Look! We're giving all these skinny models cheeseburgers!") but it wouldn't actually be a practical solution for working models.

Furthermore, the CFDA and Organic Avenue are doing more than just providing healthful food to models.

"Any model that wants nutritional advice can get from an Organic Avenue consultant," Kolb said. "They just need to ask. This is all communicated in our distribution of materials direct to the models. "