As London Fashion Week begins in the UK, a miraculous turn of events seems to be taking place. The directors of the leading modeling agencies, including Storm, Elite, Next, Premier Model Management, Models 1, FM, Nevs, Oxygen, Union, First and D1 have all agreed to a zero-tolerance approach to sunbed use for all of their models or those wishing to join their agencies. This comes as a direct response to new data showing the dangers of indoor tanning beds and the significant increased risk of developing melanoma skin cancer associated with their use.
Why should the Fashion Industry's support of Cancer Research UK's initiative to put an end to indoor tanning come as such a shock? What makes these two agencies such strange bed fellows you ask? How does the Fashion Industry influence tanning behavior?
Actually, many researchers believe that the tanning attitudes of the 20th and 21st centuries came as a direct response to cues from the fashion industry in the 1920's. This is the time that Coco Channel announced to the world that it was "chic to have a tan!" Prior to this time, a tan was associated with the working class and outdoor laborers - not the image the fashionista's of the day were striving for.
My own research on tanning attitudes in the early 20th century found that articles and advertisements promoting the fashionable aspects of tanned
skin were more numerous in women's fashion magazines in 1928 and 1929 compared to 1927 and 1920. As the number of ads promoting tanned skin rose,
those promoting pale skin (by bleaching or protection) seemed to diminish in this same period.
The power of the Fashion Industry is truly incredible. With the ability to dictate style and profoundly effect on human behavior, we are no longer talking about what will be 'in' next season. As dermatologists and skin cancer specialists, we commend this bold direction and thank them dearly for their support in our fight against skin cancer - the most common type of cancer that now effects human beings. Above all, we look forward to seeing next season's introduction of the unfashionable tan!