Not all women can be models, Dior designer Maria Grazia Chiuri said Tuesday after a show inspired by the feminist artist Niki de Saint Phalle, who is famous for her fat ladies.
The Italian designer, who has made much of her own feminist credentials since becoming the first woman to head the storied French label last year, led out her spring-summer collection at Paris Fashion Week with a Breton jumper bearing the slogan, "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?"
The ironic rallying call kicked off Chiuri's most colourful show for Dior, which fizzed with Saint Phalle's primary colours and liquorice pinks and yellows.
But the designer stopped short of casting larger models in her homage to the great Franco-American artist who glorified the fuller female form in her voluptuous "Nanas" sculptures.
"Not all girls can be a model," Chiuri told AFP as she praised a new charter banning ultra-thin models from the Paris catwalk.
"I think it's a great idea... because I'm a woman, I have a daughter.
"At the same time we have to explain that not all people can be a model," she added.
- 'It's a job' -
Chiuri's comments came only two weeks after a wave of "plus-size" models led byAshley Graham made headlines at New York Fashion Week.
"Because sometimes now everybody wants it all. If you want to be a singer you have to have a voice. If you want to be a climber you have to be athletic. There is something that is specific," Chiuri said.
The public often have the wrong idea about designers, she argued. "I don't want to use anorexic girls. Sometimes people forget that it's a job."
"We work on a Stockman dummy. It is size 37. We don't work on 40 because it is too difficult afterwards to make the other sizes. So there are some sizes that are good for making the first prototype. So we need the girls who have the talent and are naturally born in this size."
Earlier in the day the young French brand Jour/ne used a plus-sized model in its Paris catwalk show, although it preferred to call her "someone with curves".
"We don't want to pigeon-hole models," a source at the label told AFP after the show, which raised eyebrows by using Coca-Cola branding on some of its clothes.
Chiuri said she loved models "that have personality. I love (the British model) Ruth (Bell) because she has a strong personality. I think that you can feel it."
The designer created a huge and spectacular cave with mirrored mosaics to show Dior's collection in a nod to similar instalments that Saint Phalle created in Hamburg and Italy.
- 'We should all be feminists' -
Chiuri began her reign at Dior with a t-shirt bearing the slogan "We should all be feminists", and borrowed the "great women artists" line in her new show from an essay by the American feminist art historian Linda Nochlin.
The size of models has become a hot-button issue, with many critics claiming that fashion presents young women with an unhealthy and unattainable ideal of beauty.
Plus-size model Ashley Graham received a rapturous reception when she stepped out for Canadian lingerie brand Addition Elle in New York, and larger models Candice Huffine, Precious Lee and Sabina Karlsson also featured in other top shows.
Earlier this month French fashion's two biggest players -- LVMH and Kering -- said they were banning overly thin and under-age models from their catwalks.
Models must now be at least 16 years of age and size 34 or over (size six in Britain and zero in the US).
Saint Laurent -- which is owned by Kering -- will unveil its spring-summer collection later Tuesday, having been criticised earlier this year by French advertising watchdogs for its use of very thin models in "porno chic" poses for a publicity campaign.