Having tanned skin these days is considered a sign of beauty, of youth and of wellbeing, but it hasn’t always been the case. And in other cultures, skin whitening is in contrast a sign of nobility and propriety. Is tanning, currently considered attractive in Europe, simply a fad?
Whiteness was once a symbol of nobility: only aristocrats, who didn’t need to work, could maintain white and well looked-after skin (in contrast to the tanned skin of peasants who represented almost the entire French population in the Middle Ages). Having pale skin wasn’t a given for everybody, however, and was therefore an ostentatious sign of wealth and distinction that was much sought-after – so much so that women covered their faces with a lead-based whitening agent that ended up intoxicating them…
Even today, in some cultures (particularly Asian ones), whiteness is advocated as the beauty norm. In India, mothers ban their daughters from sun exposure from a young age because the best suitors choose to marry the palest girls. In Japan, women don’t go out without their umbrella and they even apply sun cream in the winter to keep their complexion as pale as possible. This difference in people’s conceptions of tanning has led many fashion and cosmetics firms to adapt their ranges according to the country (see the example of l’Oréal opposite).
More and more women are starting to jog to keep in shape and to measure their fitness levels. According to a recent study by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, there are 3 million French women who are fans of running regularly. But what is it that motivates them to run?
Thirty years ago running was a male sport which appealed to very few women. Today, the taboo is lifted: An equality exists among joggers and there are even specific races reserved for women, like La Parisienne, created 15 years ago to meet the enthusiasm of women for jogging. Since then, the principle has been continued in most major French cities. They have friendly atmospheres, a good spirit and, despite wanting to finish in the best position, participants do not forget to smile to their well wishers.
Yoga, an ancient technique from India, has experienced a rapid breakthrough in the West since the 1960s, to such an extent that an estimated 10% of Americans (source: Gralon) and 3 million French people (source: Esprit Yoga) practise it at least occasionally, and amongst them a large majority are women…
The main advantage of yoga is that appeals to all profiles: it requires no particular muscular ability to get started, and it can be practised by children as well as elderly people. While women aged 25 to 55 make up the majority of participants in yoga classes in France, the number of lessons aimed at specific groups is rocketing: classes for pregnant women, yoga seminars for businesspeople, training for primary school teachers who want to initiate their pupils… golden goose shoes
Unheard of a couple of decades ago, low-calorie and low-fat products have invaded our supermarket aisles to such a point that all foods now have a lighter version – from yoghurts and butter to fizzy drinks. A dieter’s best friend, they are now essential buys for women…
It was only in the 1960s that fully skimmed milk was authorised to be sold. Since then, brands have followed suit and “lighter”, “low fat” and “low calorie” products now make up 20% of products in our food aisles. There are even areas where the lighter option has become the norm: chewing gums that contain real sugar have almost disappeared, and sales of Diet Coke or Coca Coca Zero have overtaken sales of the original version!
Women are without question the biggest consumers of these lighter options. As a result of social pressure which stresses that slenderness is the ultimate sign of beauty, women are constantly dieting or “watching what they eat and drink”: it’s not surprising then that lighter foods are seen as a real philosophy of life and they invade women’s cupboards! Women therefore get the impression that they can eat without consuming calories.
Fashion icon Donna Karan is delving into the nonprofit world with her new brand, Urban Zen; 10% of all profits are donated to her charity, the Urban Zen Foundation which funds research against cancer.
Her own friends’ battles with cancer pushed Karan to create a high-impact line and foundation in order to give back to the community that helped her.
To tie the clothes with the spirit of the charity, Karan organizes the Urban Zen fashion shows in the foundation’s offices, with a whole event planned around yoga, health food, meditation, and the sale of artisanal objects.
Karan says it best herself: “I’ve spent my whole life dressing people, now I want to talk to them.”