Monday, January 15, 2007

Just Eat Something Already

Everyone probably remembers back in September when officials at the Madrid fashion shows banned overly thin models from walking the runways. Since this was the first ban of its kind, the Spain shows ended up receiving a lot of press coverage about their ruling, but who really thought those actions would carry any "weight" with the other fashion capitals? After all, it was just Madrid. And what are fashion shows without stick-like bodies to hang the clothes on anyway?

Well it turned out that the fashion officials who reign in Milan also announced that they would adopt the same ban imposed by Madrid for their shows in February. Under the new codes, the models must have a body mass index (BMI) of at least 18.5 and be at least 16 years old to be hired by designers, modeling agencies, photographers, make-up artists etc. I also heard rumors of a smoke and alcohol-free zone backstage…has everyone gone mad?

Actually they’ve probably just gone healthy. The director of Madrid’s show, Leonor Perez Pita, admitted, “The restrictions could be quite a shock to the fashion world at the beginning, but I’m sure it’s important as far as health is concerned.”

The statements for Milan’s shows were also focused on promoting a healthy image for models, and under Milan’s new code, each model will have to possess a medical certificate to prove she is in good health before she can walk.

Of course the flip side of the healthy image is wanting to avoid projecting unhealthy images of anorexia to young, impressionable girls. Concho Guerra, a regional official in Spain, said, “Fashion is a mirror, and many teenagers imitate what they see on the catwalk.”

On our side of the pond, the tone was more one of anger than concern for all those vulnerable teenagers. Cathy Gould, director for Elite modeling agency in North America, stated, “I think it’s outrageous. I understand they want to set this tone of healthy, beautiful women, but what about discrimination against the model? And what about the freedom of the designer?” To give her some credit, she was concerned about some young women – her models whose careers could be hurt because of their “naturally gazelle-like” body types.

As for models working in the states, the Council of Fashion Designers of America issued a statement promising that they will not impose a similar ban based on a model’s weight. In explanation they stated, “The CFDA Health Initiative is about awareness and education, not policing.”

They also addressed the issue of anorexic models by saying, “Eating disorders are emotional disorders that have psychological, behavioral, social, and physical manifestations, of which body weight is only one.”

In addition to that lovely sentiment, Diane Von Furstenberg and the rest of the CFDA crew did want to do something to help the poor, starving models. So they are planning on setting up workshops to educate the industry on the nature of eating disorders as well as suggesting ways to keep models healthy, such as providing balanced meals at photo shoots and warning them against underage smoking and drinking.

It looks like everyone in the fashion world really is trying to do their part in making sure another Kate Moss-type doesn’t end up as the new poster girl for “Under-Eaters Anonymous” (or “Coke Whores Anonymous” for that matter).