London Fashion Week 2007 starts sans models under 16

20 September, 2007

The London Fashion Week of 2007, which is under way, sports a big difference. Models under the age of 16 are not allowed to catwalk.

The decision to allow only models aged 16 and above to participate in one of the most prestigious events of the world’s fashion industry comes on the heels of a report issued by Britain’s Model Health Inquiry.

The inquiry was set up by the British Fashion Council, which organizes the London Fashion Week – an event that features dozens of international designers – amid an international debate about models who appear to be unhealthily skinny.

The Model Health Inquiry report also follows the starvation-related deaths of South American models Ana Carolina Reston, 21, and sisters Louisel and Eliana Ramos in 2006.

Models participating in the London Fashion Week of 2008 will also have to provide a medical certificate from a specialist in ‘eating disorder’ attesting to their good health.

Baroness Kingsmill, chair of the inquiry, has said that, “during the investigation, evidence of vulnerability of women in the modeling profession was startling and models are at high risk of eating disorders.”

With a view to having control of widespread health issues in the fashion profession, the inquiry report recommends that models with severe eating disorders such as anorexia not be allowed to participate in next year’s fashion week.

Baroness Kingsmill said girls with some milder eating disorders could take part, but only if they had their doctor’s permission.

Some health professionals have welcomed the move as a step forward for the fashion industry. Dr Linda Papadopoulos, a psychologist, told CTV News, “This is going to put the onus on the industry as a whole to have some kind of responsibility.”

The Model Health Inquiry report also suggests that models participating in the fashion week face random drug tests. However, it is unclear whether that recommendation will be enacted.

The 14 recommendations listed in the report also fell short of creating a minimum body mass index (BMI) limit. The BMI measures ratio of weight to height.

According to the authors of the report, using the BMI does not accurately measure health. However, Italy and Spain have banned all models with a BMI of less than 18 – in effect, a size zero – from fashion shows in those countries. A BMI of 18.5 is the World Health Organisation’s minimum healthy standard.

The report also noted that models are part of a profession at high risk of eating disorders, but that there is a lack of knowledge about such disorders in the fashion industry. Exceedingly thin models are provoking criticism that the fashion industry is obsessed with thinness and dieting in the wider population.

Other recommendations of the Model Health Inquiry are

  • Checking of criminal records for agents, designers, and photographers working with models under the age of 16.
  • Setting up of a health awareness programme to help models and industry professionals recognise and get help for eating disorders.
  • Establishment of a healthy backstage environment with quality food products.
  • Limiting digital manipulation of body shapes.





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