A Disturbing Image Provokes Action

image courtesy of That Other Blog
Isabelle Caro, a 27-year old French woman who weighs just 68 lbs has suffered from anorexia since she was 13.
She’s also the star of a highly charged new ad campaign from Nolita, an Italian fashion label.
Double-page spreads of the ads, which brutally expose her and her disease, debuted Monday in major Italian newspapers along with prominent downtown billboards in cities such as Milan, Naples and Rome, coinciding with Milan’s fashion week. The ads will run in national French newspaper LibĂ©ration next week.
The Nolita campaign was developed by photographer Oliviero Toscani, who has made a career out of twinning often disturbing images with fashion. During the ’80s and ’90s, he authored numerous campaigns for Italian apparel maker Benetton that touched on themes of race, AIDS and sexuality.
This campaign is already stirring people up. Some health advocates claim the company is trying to profit from the disease. I, for one, don’t see the merit in that claim.
[via The Wall Street Journal (paid sub. req.)]

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Oliviero Toscani opened up the doors to religious discussions in the ’80s with a photo which was controversial in RC faith circles. I also hope this picture opens up the door to eastern religious discussion. I’d suggest not only linking views of fashion and women to anorexia, but also maybe a discussion of anorexia and asceticism. I know there have been paper written on the subject. I am sure O.T. has a critical eye for eastern and aboriginal practices as well as western practice.

  2. call me a cynic, but when i saw this ad the first thing i thought was nolita is showing us a real anorexic to highlight the fact the the models they typically use are not (however skinny they may be). i’m probably off base, but i think the fashion industry has played a big part in creating my cynicism.

  3. “eastern religious discussion”
    Hmmm. Not sure about that. I could see it fanning the discussion on beauty and image Dove started with their campaign, but religious overtones?
    The only almighty in this case is the almighty dollar coveted by the fashion industry.
    (Really tried hard to work the religious puns in.)

  4. I know this is a blog about marketing and advertising and such so forgive me for not mentioning Dove or Nolita or some other corporation, but I wish to respect the recovery of this woman more than I wish to sell soap. She has stated that as her wish.
    I was not surprised by the foto because I have held a girl like this in my arms in a mental ward. I’ve also seen a teenage boy go through a ascetic phase where he lost lots of weight in a time when he should have been gaining.
    You think it’s strange that I gave up a study in fashion or was halted from a career by very bizarre circumstances, then i gave up on design to become a housewife. I’ve heard various judgements on that from various people and “professionals”.
    I spent my Friday an Saturday night alone reading about this.
    Opinions on the web like this from 1976

    I must make clear at the outset of this essay that I do not regard Indian asceticism as a unique phenomenon, to be studied the way one would study some odd eruption of nature. Quite the contrary, it should be plain from what I have already said that I regard both manifest asceticism and the tendency to asceticism as universal traits. Indeed, this is why I think it is worth studying such a phenomenon in such detail. To lend support to my statement, I need only remind the reader of the attenuated forms of asceticism we see in everyday life: the sacrificing mother, the wife who renounces her own ambitions to enable her husband to proceed without fear of being bettered
    or snippets in blogs like:

    anorexia is a disease of the very intelligent

    or forum discussions like:

    I wonder how much of the “enlightenment” attained by those Brahminite sages of ancient India (and, indeed, modern India) had to do with the psychological effects of starvation – that in fact the psychological effects of starvation are exactly the goal of asceticism as it has been practiced by everyone from Jainists to Russian Orthodox monks. And further, since antidepressants are also known for their psychological “deadening” effect, I wonder if the effects of asceticism could be duplicated pharmaceutically — that one could in fact become a saint or an immortal by taking SSRI’s.

    All very interesting and backed up with knowledge and experience.
    I don’t like placing all blame on the fashion industry. I have been backstage with professional models, even if it was only Chicago. They were thin. but they were not like this. Similarly I know people who have other metabolism disorders that are not anorexic, who eat and exercise and still cannot gain weight. It’s a good discussion that this woman had the courage to start. And I have recently been introduced to some Indian religious concepts outside the internet in real life.