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Six countries taking steps to tackle super-skinny models

Six countries taking steps to tackle super-skinny models
By Selina Sykes
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Countries including France and Spain have introduced measures to fight against underweight modelling in the fashion industry.


For years the fashion industry’s use of stick-thin models has sparked a heated a debate.

Critics say the practice encourages an unhealthy body image and eating disorders, while some in the fashion world argue clothes hang better on tall, skinny women.

In May France became the latest country to pass legislation banning the use of fashion models deemed to be “excessively thin”.

The move has received much praise and support from around the world and has led to calls in other countries for governments to do the same.

But France isn’t the first country to pass legislation on underweight models – Italy, Spain and Israel have all done so.

Other countries, such as Denmark and the US, have taken a slightly different approach that focuses more on peer pressure and less on forcing the fashion industry’s hand through legislation.


A law banning the hiring of ultra-thin models in France came into effect in May this year.

Models must present a valid medical certificate proving that they are fit to work, provided by a doctor who must make a decision based on their body mass index (BMI), age and body shape.

Companies could be fined up to €75,000 or its bosses jailed for up to six months if they breach the law.

Images where a model’s appearance has been altered using photo editing software also have to be labeled as a ‘retouched photograph’.

The French health ministry says the changes in legislation aim to fight eating disorders and inaccessible ideals of beauty.

Major French fashion houses LVMH and Kering behind labels including Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton and Yves Saint Laurent this week have said they would stop using underweight models for their catwalk shows worldwide.

Antoine Arnault (LVMH) on the well-being of models: “We have the responsibility of building new standards.”

— LVMH (@LVMH) 6 septembre 2017


Spain became the first country to enforce a ban on excessively thin models in 2006, sending shockwaves across the fashion world.

The Spanish Association of Fashion Designers decided to turn away underweight models who had a BMI of less than 18 at Madrid fashion.

Nearly a third of models were banned from taking to the catwalk in the first year the rule was introduced.
UN health experts recommend a BMI of between 18.5 and 25 for women.

Spain now bars excessively skinny models from featuring in Madrid fashion shows.



Italy soon followed in Spain’s footsteps and banned ultra-thin women from its fashion shows in Milan in a bid to tackle anorexic models.

Legislation insists health certificates for models based on their BMI.

Other measures include a minimum age of 16 for models showcasing women’s clothing.



In 2012 the Israeli government passed a law banning the use of underweight models in advertising and on the catwalk.

The legislation requires models to provide medical proof of a healthy weight and for adverts to state if an image has been altered to make a model appear thinner.

Models in Israel must have a BMI of no less than 18.5.


While Denmark hasn’t passed any official legislation, it has introduced a Fashion Ethical Charter, produced by the country’s Fashion Institute and its eight largest model agencies.


Agencies who sign up to the charter must arrange an annual medical check for all models under the age of 25, provide healthy food at photo shoots and other events and give their models a wage (some models are paid in clothes when they start out).

The US

Like Denmark, the US has no formal legislation on underweight models but launched a health initiative in 2007 to protect those working in the fashion industry.

The Council of Fashion Designers of America requires those working in fashion to learn how to recognise the early signs of eating disorders, models with eating disorders to seek professional help and stop modelling until they get a doctor’s approval, bosses to develop workshops on eating disorders and for healthy food to be provided at shoots and shows.

The charter has also introduced a minimum modelling age of 16.

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