Paul Costelloe speaks out on expanding waistlines
'BIG is beautiful' is fast becoming the mantra for retailers such as Debenhams, which is introducing size 16 mannequins in its department stores.
But not according to outspoken Irish designer Paul Costelloe, who has launched a withering attack on women's expanding waistlines.
The average Irish woman is now a size 14 to 16, but Mr Costelloe – who once infamously said Irishwomen "wouldn't know style if it tottered up to them in 10-inch heels" – said he would never advertise his clothes for larger ladies.
He told the Sunday Independent: "At the end of the day I am in the business of selling a product and unfortunately it wouldn't help in my business to be using size 16 models. We have to start distinguishing between curvy and large and stop fooling ourselves that we are all in the former category."
And he believes education needs to start in the kitchen.
"Young women in particular have a problem with their weight. How many of them know how to cook proper healthy dishes? The education about food and diet and cooking needs to start early," Mr Costelloe added.
"They don't even know how to boil an egg anymore. Very basic stuff about diet and cooking."
He hit out at Debenhams' move as being "typically British", adding: "It is just so typically Debenhams and typically British trying to normalise everything into becoming acceptable.
"Everything is acceptable these days, but people need to wake up and realise that sometimes the 'norm' is not always correct.
"It's part of England, where I live, and part of the culture at the moment [trying to normalise this]. People using any excuse to make people feel better about themselves.
"But it's not the right approach to take when it comes to such a serious issue as weight."
Mr Costelloe, who was speaking to the Sunday Independent on the return leg of a trip to China, said Irishwomen need to look East to improve their eating habits.
"We have become so westernised and it's taking a toll on our weight and health. We have got to start looking East to turn the tide," he said.
"I've just spent a few days on a student campus there and, looking around, everyone was so slim and healthy. The young people there eat incredibly well. Fish, vegetables, how they cook their food, their habits. The closest thing they have to a dessert is a dumpling."
Asked why he has no size 16 models on the catwalk when showcasing his clothes, he said: "Fashion shows are like an advertisement.
"It is like a dream, it's like going to the cinema and seeing Tom Cruise on the big screen and him appearing like he is 6ft rather than 5ft. It's the same idea."
But not everyone agrees. Rising star and plus-size model Lena Zellerhoff, thinks the move by Debenhams is a giant step in the right direction.
"I think that is amazing. It is unbelievable how surreal the fashion industry is in that they portray a size six or eight as beautiful and believe that everything beyond that is not," she said..
"I am very into healthy eating and I am very aware with what is good for your body, but I generally don't diet.
"Diets just put me under stress and pressure and I believe everything in moderation. It's all about being happy. There is nothing better than having a lunch or dinner with friends and, to me, that's too nice to sacrifice."
The model also disputed Mr Costelloe's comments, arguing that fuller-sized models can add to the saleability of a clothes line.
"He is entitled to his opinion but I wouldn't necessarily agree with him. At the end of the day if you look around at the customers, they are not as skinny as models and it makes far more sense to have your clothes on a curvy model to appeal to these women. In terms of sales it certainly makes more sense in a country like Ireland where the average woman is a size 14."
Mr Costelloe was speaking just days after Karl Lagerfeld came under a storm of criticism when he stated that: "Nobody wants to see curvy women on the runway."
The Chanel creative director, 80, is now facing legal action from women's pressure group Belle, Ronde, Sexy et je m'assume (Beautiful, Rounded, Sexy and fine with it), accused of defamation.
Lagerfeld appeared on the French chat show Le Grand 8 and claimed "the hole in social security" was all down to "diseases caught by people who are too fat". He also made his comment about curvy women on the catwalk.