De-touching the lollipop-headed Ralph Lauren image that prompted a legal threat

You remember that Ralph Lauren marketing image featuring an implausible thin model whose head is bigger than her pelvis? The one that prompted Ralph Lauren's marketing arm to send us a legal threat because we made fun of it?

Yeah, that one.

Well, Natasja Capelle, a freelance designer, has detouched the image to restore the model to something like a healthy, well-proportioned stature. Want to play along? Make your own detouched image, post a link in the comments. The best images will receive (possibly) a legal threat from Ralph Lauren and an entirely virtual but nevertheless highly valuable appreciative ovation from all over the world.

The criticism that Ralph Lauren doesn't want you to see! (Thanks, Natasja!)


  1. Oh lord, that picture is almost as worthy of a trip to PhotoshopDisasters as the original – arms to not have bends in them like that!

    I appreciate the concept, and I’d love to see the original, but just looks painful…

  2. Gah, such joyless, borderline angry expressions on these hungry models. Give me Beth Ditto or Mia Tyler

    All these angles and elbows come from the “New Look” era and are completely inconsiderate of the female form, regardless of size. When did having a pelvis become unsightly?

  3. I was seriously considering selling my house and all my possessions in order to purchase the latest haute couture that Ralph Lauren himself has graciously chosen to gift to humanity, but after this debacle, he can forget it.

      1. PSD thinks that’s a defence? That’s actually the main reason I never considered using Blogspot (or any other blogging service that maintains control over what I write).

  4. This is pretty poor. Tempted to do my own when I get home. Needs less smooth skin, more upper thigh, more waist and bingo wings.

    @ mgfarrelly

    So… skinny = moody and fat = jolly? Idiot.

  5. I look at the de-freaked image, and I’m still seeing the Invasion of the Mantis People very clearly.

    She’s still about 7 1/2 heads tall – so she’s still completely outside the normal range. That, and the fact that she looks like she’s partially liquefied – what do you call a disaster on top of another disaster?

  6. I think this image is just a drop of water in the marketing ocean. A bigger drop than most, sure. What I don’t like is that free speech seems to be *more* of an issue that the womans health.

    And, at the end of the day, both Boing Boing and Ralph Lauren are profiting from this on some level. I thinks that a tad sad.

    1. “And, at the end of the day, both Boing Boing and Ralph Lauren are profiting from this on some level. I thinks that a tad sad. ”

      So… what then? Better to have just pulled the posting when the take-down notice came? Xeni should never have made an issue of it in the first place?

      I’m having a hard time understanding at what level you find BB in the wrong here, and what they might be doing differently.

  7. The model is Filippa Hamilton-Palmstierna, who is not only the face of Ralph Lauren, but apparently also long-time user of Herbalife weight loss products:

    So that’s what pills can do to you!

    Here she is before her hips imploded and here head exploded:

    Warning: chemically distorting your body can lead to structural instability, which can make it difficult to sit on chairs:



  8. can BB hack this so that I can do the mouse-over comparison?
    you know, so the images flip-flop in a single frame?
    I can do a side by side by playing with browser windows,(and the contrast becomes even more astonishing) but the immediacy of the “before/after” can’t be overstated.

  9. I didn’t realize at first that the image accompanying this article is the detouched version. It still looks like an unrealistic body shape, unless it’s an example of the effects of extreme corsetry.

  10. @ ZoopyFunk “Boing Boing and Ralph Lauren are profiting from this on some level. I thinks that a tad sad.”

    Journalists shouldn’t report on bad things? :S

  11. That’s pretty good, sixta! Can someone straighten out her head? I’m getting a kink in my neck from looking at her permanent walk-like-an-Egyptian pose.

  12. I vote for sixta’s and for sending Raplh Lauren the most voted version, so they understand how a human being looks like.

  13. I’ll take the natually beautiful woman I see around the city over these photoshopped virtual woman anytime.

  14. Lyd – No, of course Xeni should have posted about this. Its classic BB. But subsequent posts? Dealing not with the health(good or bad) of this industries models…no, Its all about the take down. Its made it to the national media…and then more posts. I mean, come on, its advertised at the top of the page for two days…not advertising the issues dealing with anorexia/bulemia, but COPYFIGHT DAMMIT!

    You know what BB could have done? A FOOD DRIVE! Or, raise (more) awareness about image issues. Instead of this benefiting RL and BB the most…lets put some food in the mouths of the homeless. Or something. And the Point #3 that BB would ‘Offer nourishing soup and sandwiches to your models’ was obviously tongue in cheek.

    Come on, I have plenty of cans of Pork n Beans(veggie of course) that I would proudly donate, don’t you?

    There is an opportunity here folks, and not only of the Copyfight kind. Just my $.02, but I think BB is milking this one a bit aggressively.

  15. @sixta

    That’s a good effort. As ugly as those clothes are they look so much more flattering on an undistorted body.

  16. Good one sixta. I believe Sweden has a 2006 law that models must have a BMI >= 18 to participate in shows (5′-11″ and 130 pounds = BMI 18). Spain did the same thing in 2007.

  17. I guess at the end of the day, Xeni had her issue, and then Cory had his resultant issue. Both were awesome for their own facet.

    It just frustrates me that this is obviously helping RL, not hurting it.

  18. got punked. Do a google image search for Ralph Lauren Blue Label and you can see other shots of that same model wearing the same outfit from the same shoot.

    You can’t see it now, since the page has been taken down, but there was no link back to the original, which they almost always provide.

    In this case I’d have to agree with Ralph Lauren, at least in the case of sites that wouldn’t identify it as a fake. Look at all the vitriol being spewed about their company caused by an image they didn’t even make.

    1. Doug,

      I don’t see where Ralph Lauren has claimed this is a fake. They have only claimed that the advertisement is theirs.

      1. How would you have them word the letter? “Take down the image immediately because some anonymous netizen shopped it and it isn’t flattering to our client’s image because people think it’s real”?

        They took the only legal recourse they had. You admit you didn’t make it, so they couldn’t have you take it down for any other reason, however (in their eyes) they really need you to take it down.

        I personally find the contrary opinion dismaying. This wasn’t presented as parody, it was presented as genuine. A quick perusal of this thread, let alone the hundred other blogs making hay out of this, will show that the damage to their reputation is genuine as well.

        Assuming for the sake of discussion that I am correct, how would you have proceeded as a RL lawyer (not as a RL publicist, which IMO is the way they should have handled this)? I’ll grant RL, Inc., did not handle this well, but I also do not think they were in the wrong.

  19. Oh please, please, please, somebody with better Photoshop skills than I possess, please turn her into Kirstie Alley.

  20. The Hands! The Hands! If this is closer to the actual person I want to know how her fingers got so long and weirdly jointed.
    As for not mentioning the societal problems associated with beauty standards which can’t be matched because they models don’t exist in real life-that’s a whole other issue from Ralph Lauren trying to censor criticism of their ads. It is an issue which needs raising-but it’s not the one Cory and Xeni were looking at here.

    1. I think we’d be better off if lawyers were converted into smart objects for themes like these…..

  21. I’ve gotta say, the “normal” versions look a heck of a lot more attractive to this male homo sap. Admittedly I’m not the one they were trying to sell clothes to, but maybe I’m an example of those to whom the buyers of those clothes should be trying to appeal…

  22. Yeah, I gotta agree with the consensus that this is hardly an “improvement” since the implication was that whoever retouched the original made the model look less realistic through Photoshop.

    She may have been a stick figure before, but for a scarecrow she was still reasonably lifelike. Now she just looks like a boneless chicken.

  23. FWIW, I worked for the company at the time, especially closely to the graphics department that “created” this image. The model had gained weight and he-llo, rather than booking another model, or choosing a different pose, they decided to just make her look thinner in post-production. I know several higher-ups were opposed to the publishing of the image, but it was eventually approved, only to be criticized internally when everyone realized how absolutely ridiculous it looked.

    1. Sure you did, “Anonymous”. I guess they also criticized the distortion of the corporate logo, to no avail. Big companies never have cared for little things like that, even companies that live and die by their public’s opinion of their taste and design sense, like Ralph Lauren.

      Seriously, has anyone even bothered to examine this image in Photoshop with Grid on?

  24. There you go, Doug. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that you are wrong, since you have not presented any evidence to the contrary, and that you are a RL apologist troll, of which you have indeed presented convincing evidence. I think the original post describes BB’s position fairly well. Common sense for us non-litigious types would dictate that it’s better to take your lumps when you do something stupid than make a big stink which will most assuredly backfire. (See the previously referenced Streisand Effect please.) Oh, I guess you would rather have everyone cower before the ignorant bloated industry giants whenever they snap their fingers and try to wave their magic wand of intimidation, no matter how unjustified? This might not be the blog for you.

    1. What precisely did RL do that was stupid? Your assumption is that they released an ad that any 5th grader with Elements could do better. If that was true, that would be stupid. I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt for two reasons: that they didn’t get to be a billion-dollar design firm by having the advertising QC of a corner garage, and that anyone that has spent even a little time with Photoshop will recognize the results of 30 seconds worth of Liquify.

      I may grant you that turning loose the lawyers rather than the publicists to control this might qualify as stupid, but seeing how little effect PR damage control has over anything that goes viral I can’t say that I’d have done any differently in their shoes.

      1. Doug, you are evidencing more than benefit of doubt here, imho. You are making an argument without a shred of supportive evidence, going way out on a limb in your assumptions to support your predetermined position that RL can do no wrong even when they are acting like total de-touchbags. What little you have cited has proven to be false, so why should we listen to you proverbially flapping your gums any longer? It’s getting tedious. Maybe it’s those shoes of theirs you’re wearing. I’d try a different brand.

  25. Doug, I imagine “unauthorized derivative use” would have been more accurate, if that’s what they thought. Secondly, I don’t think Cory or Xeni are claiming parody, rather, fair-use for the purposes or commentary or review.

    1. Dirivative use claims rarely result in the rapid takedown that RL lawyers were obviously seeking. It also doesn’t apply since virtually every site that has displayed this image is portraying it as “news”, which is an automatic protection against dirivative use.

      They can’t use libel, since the fact that PSD posted this image is in fact true, and that is the “news” that is being reported (along with the subsequent news of the events that caused). (though they could possibly have a libel case against PSD, but if you think there are cries of Streisand Effect now…)

      Interestingly, if all these sites had been portraying it the image as parody, it would have enjoyed even stronger protection, and also would not have drawn fire from RL. But virtually no OP is claiming that.

  26. Seriously, has anyone even bothered to examine this image in Photoshop with Grid on?

    It looks quite a lot like someone has photographed a point-of-sale poster (perhaps on a vertically-curved surface). That immediately explains the perspective and the distortion-of-the-logo, as mentioned by Alison Scott.

    Look at the top left side, it looks like something in the background, a dado rail maybe. I really looks like a photo.

  27. Doug, (and Alison, if you’re about)

    Here’s a version of the photo, where I boosted the shadow tones. Out of the blacks, in the upper left (where I pointed you to already), come some background objects.

    Again, I think this provides more evidence that it’s a photo of a real-life poster or point-of-sale display, rather than a hoax photoshop job.

    1. It can be both. It could even be the result of severe pincushion distortion from a very wide-angle lens compounded by distortion caused by shooting from above. But what is isn’t is a “marketing image featuring an implausible thin model whose head is bigger than her pelvis”. And, since it was posted to Photoshop Disasters, it was either posted knowing that the image distorted the original poster, or was manipulated to distort and claimed to be an honest rendering.

      None of those matter, really. What matters is the explosion of anti-RL sentiment this is causing. And I really don’t give two hoots about Ralph Lauren, it just offends me that anyone would accept this as work that any retoucher working at that level would let out for public view.

      1. it just offends me that anyone would accept this as work that any retoucher working at that level would let out for public view.

        Do you not read Photoshop Disasters? Crap like this goes out all the time. She’s lucky that she doesn’t have an extra limb from a person of another race.

        1. Heh, believe it or not I am quite aware of PSD. I am even more aware of the difference in league between the work done for an OfficeMax flyer or a Hollywood sequel one-sheet than for a campaign of the level a company such as Ralph Lauren would employ.

          But I am disappointed that “it happens a lot so it must be true now” passes for logic here.

  28. this chick is supposed to be the spokesmodel for ralph lauren? she looks “unretouched” more like a spokesmodel for skinny women who don’t know how to dress is real jeans with bowlegs. the retouched photo just looks like a full sized torso grew out of a sick child’s lower half. either way, the model isn’t a good representative of what ‘good’ or ‘comfortable’ fashion is supposed to be.

  29. Bravo…Just read about your reply to Ralph and wanted to tell you….” Thank You ” for defending one of the biggest freedoms…speech. I had never heard of your website until this, but was so impressed with your reply that I had to come and comment. Personally, I do wear Ralph Lauren clothing and cannot imagine how this image got approval to begin with….love a good David and Goliath!

    1. The Yahoo article links to, which I think is probably a good site. I say probably due to the 25 lines of stealth links (not so stealthy, actually) about Indian Viagra. But they don’t seem to be selling it, just using it for blackhat SEO.

  30. New slang for emaciated skeleton people in refugee camps, and those dying of anorexia: “going Ralph.”

  31. Doug,

    Do a google image search for Ralph Lauren Blue Label and you can see other shots of that same model wearing the same outfit from the same shoot.

    Show me. I couldn’t find any examples.

  32. Interesting enough, this story has been picked up by both ABC news in the states and the Daily Mail in the UK now. I wonder how long til Ralph cries uncle?

  33. Doug why don’t you link to a real version so that this argument can be over now? I couldn’t find it, and it seems others haven’t either. Some objective evidence on your side would not go amiss.

  34. Did anyone else notice the last sentence in the DMCA take down notice…

    “…this letter is not intended as a complete statement of the facts or law.”

    What good is a law firm that can’t really tell you what their case is against you? If I were PRL, I’d get new laywers.

  35. Sekino! Brilliant. The big hairy issue is fat v. skinny, so we all assume that she was narrowed in photoshop. But no, she was lengthened! Yours gets my vote.

  36. OMG! She looks like a healthy elastic! LOL! WAY better than looking like she’d eat as much as a squirrel! I’d be SO pissed if I were that woman! They made her look like an anorexic freak.

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