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Enlightened Aesthetics : Fashion Luminaries Make It Official: The Suntan Is a Hazardous Has-Been


FASHION DESIGNERS may not be in accord on the subject of hemlines, but many now agree that acquiring a tan is "out," in the words of Donna Karan; "passe," according to Carolina Herrera, and "finished," in the opinion of Christian Lacroix. These fashion leaders are reaffirming the anti-tan message that doctors and skin-care specialists have been sending for years.

(As part of the American Academy of Dermatology's skin-cancer-prevention activities, free screenings are offered during May at clinics, hospitals and health fairs.)

"Even if we don't consider the health aspects--and how can we not?--a tan just isn't pretty anymore," Karan says.

A national survey of style opinion leaders sponsored by the dermatology academy and the Avon Foundation found that an overwhelming majority of fashion designers feel the same way. International model agent Eileen Ford says she discourages all models from sunbathing. Even swimwear models, for whom a sun-bronzed body would seem de rigueur, stay out of the sun. "We don't demand a tan. We don't care what color their skin is," says Anne Cole, designer of the Anne Cole Collection and executive vice president of Cole of California.

Unfortunately, Lacroix says, some Europeans still sunbathe, "despite what they know about the dangers."

But in America, sales of sunscreen products have tripled since 1982, indicating that consumers here are heeding warnings about skin cancer. Even companies whose products are aimed at sunbathers have observed that the dark tan is no longer desirable. "Over 67% of sunscreen sales last summer were with SPF 15 or higher, and we forecast that for summer of 1988 sunscreen consumer sales will surpass the sale of suntan products," says Dave Dickenson, product director for Johnson & Johnson's Sundown Group.

Ironically, designers are undoing a trend started by one of their own: French couturiere Coco Chanel made tans fashionable in the 1920s by showing her creations on sun-bronzed models . Today, tastemakers are much more conscious of tanning's consequences. "Tans used to make us look young," Lacroix says. "Now it looks old."

Photographed by Nicola Dill; makeup: Patrick Sicre de Fontbrune; hair: Katharina Ehrhardt/Celestine-Cloutier; styling: Bll Sucile/Visages; models: Jaime Hubbard/L.A. Models; Mike Lord/Omar's Men

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