On New Years Day legislation designed to protect models in Israel will come into force. Is 2016 the year the fashion industry will take responsibility for it’s role in the prevalence of eating disorders? 

Israeli legislation which makes it a legal requirement for models to have a BMI over 18.5 will become active on January 1.

Adi Barkan, a fashion photographer, gynecologist, lawyer and member of Knesset started the campaign for healthier body image after the death of the model Hila Elmaliah.

Earlier this month French MPs voted in favour of similar legislation intended to combat eating disorders in the fashion industry.

The french bill will mean models have to  be confirmed as healthy by doctors in order to work. It also forces magazines to label Photoshopped images “touched up”.

Anyone found to have broken the law will be liable for a fine of 75,000 and up to six months in prison.

Previous drafts have proposed a minimum BMI for models however the idea resulted in protest by the fashion industry. This bill leaves the decision in the hands of doctors. Physicians will be asked to take into account a number of factors including weight, age and mental well-being.

In Britain

There is currently no legislation outlining a minimum BMI or health certificate for models in the UK.

The British Fashion Council (BFC) established an agreement with UK designers in 2008 following the publication of Fashioning a Healthy Future a report into models’ health.

The agreement outlined several measures:

  • A ban on models under the age of 16 at London Fashion Week:
  • The provision of healthy food and drinks for all workers backstage at fashion shows.
  • A BFC funded eating disorder awareness seminar for model agencies staff delivered by B-EAT.

At the same time the BFC introduced it’s own auditing process to monitor these measures. There is however no audit data or report available on the BFC website.

Following the reports publication, the BFC also commissioned an independent feasibility study which found: “the modelling industry (models, modelling agencies and Equity) universally reject the proposed introduction of Model Health Certificates in London.”

Rosie Nelson

An Australian born model, who has been featured in Vouge, has started a petition on change.org following a London based fashion agencies request that she get “down to the bone”, despite repeatedly losing weight.

Rosie is petitioning Minister for Women and Equalities, Caroline Dinenage, to create a law to protect models from getting dangerously skinny.

In her petition she said: “The agencies managing and recruiting models have a responsibility to the well-being of girls on the catwalk at fashion week, and in the industry as a whole.”

The petition still requires 33,000 signatures to meet it’s target. To sign Rosie’s petition click here

Legislation elsewhere

In Denmark brands must carry out ‘psychological and physical’ evaluations before working with models in order to spot eating disorders or mental health issues, according to the nation’s Fashion Ethical Charter, established in 2007.

It also states models must also be 16 or over in order to receive money for their work although younger models are said to receive sample garments in lieu of actual payment.

Similar measures have been taken in countries across Europe. Spain and Italy currently ban models with a BMI below 18 from taking part in Madrid fashion shows.

WHO guidelines state that an adult with a BMI below 18 is considered malnourished, and 17 severely malnourished.

Featured Image accredited to José Goulão