Designer Giorgio Armani has blamed stylists and the media for the fashion industry's obsession with ultra-thin women.
In London to host a music and fashion extravaganza with stars Beyonce, 50 Cent and Bono, Armani said no girl needed to be anorexic to be fashionable.
A debate about models' weight has shaken the fashion world in recent days since Madrid banned excessively thin women from its catwalks after accusations their appearance may cause eating disorders in young women.
"I have never wanted to use girls that are too skinny. I prefer girls that show off my clothes in the best way," Armani told Reuters Television after the show late on Thursday. "Unfortunately though, the stylists and also the media have interfered and they now want models that are incredibly thin."
Armani, whose client list spans Hollywood to high finance, is a bellwether for the industry and the most powerful fashion insider yet to speak out on the weight debate. "No one thinks that for a girl to be fashionable she needs to be anorexic, that she must not eat. I will only take on healthy girls," he said.
The Thinness Debate
Petra Nemcova: My Brutal Diet Past
Vote: Are Stars Too Skinny?
Armani made the comments on the red carpet of one of the most anticipated events of the fashion calendar and the hottest ticket of this week's London Fashion Week. Before rock stars and actors, the 72-year-old designer hosted a three-hour show and launched a new fashion collection in support of (PRODUCT) RED, an activism venture of U2 rock star Bono aimed at raising funds to fight AIDS in Africa.
He was supported by pop diva Beyonce, who brought the 1,300 guests to their feet with a performance of her hit "Crazy in Love," and by rapper 50 Cent, who had supermodels punching the air.
In the intervals, Armani sent more than 50 models down the runway, sashaying through his three traditional collections – from haute couture gem-encrusted gowns to purple Armani suits and the baby doll dresses of his younger line Emporio Armani. Among those taking it all in were actor Leonardo DiCaprio, singer Alicia Keys and actress Ashley Judd. Hollywood's Sean Penn and Penelope Cruz and singer Usher sent video messages.
"It will be the biggest party I've ever hosted, bigger than anything in New York, Paris, Milan," Armani said before the show.
RED is a global brand with a share of its profits going to support the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. American Express, The Gap, Converse and MySpace are among those groups that have also launched a collaboration with RED.