Another fashion week, another designer is criticised for using alarmingly underweight models. This time Victoria Beckham has copped it for sending ‘skeletal, hungrylooking’ models down the runway at her New York Fashion Week show.
Let’s assume we all agree that models who grace our magazine pages and stare down at us from billboards should represent normal people (or at least more normal), and provide healthy role models for our impressionable youth. How do we make sure that happens? Assuming we aren’t able to change society’s perception of beauty any time soon, should governments force us to do the right thing?
Well, the French Parliament has had a go. It has just brought in new laws making it a criminal offence (yes, criminal) to employ excessively thin models. If you use a model with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of less than 18, you face a fine of 75,000 euros or 6 months in jail. Sacré bleu! Also, re-touch a photo to change a model’s shape and don’t declare it, and you’re up for 37,500 euros.
Israel passed similar laws a few years ago, while in Italy and Spain the fashion industry self-regulates and requires a doctor’s certification that models are healthy before they can work. The British Fashion Council (which runs London Fashion Week) will not allow models under the age of 16, and designers must ensure that food is available backstage. The Council of Fashion Designers of America has a health initiative which sets out non-mandatory guidelines, and recommends not employing models aged under 16.
What about here in Oz? There’s nothing formal in place at the moment, but as Paris obviously sets the pace fashion-wise, we won’t be surprised if the Australian government takes action soon.