Since the ‘90s, industries from around the world have had an obsession with the “perfect body”. This infatuation is particularly clear in the fashion industry and can be viewed from magazines to any and every fashion show where emaciated, five-foot-ten models strut all 95 pounds of themselves down the runway. However, this practice of perpetuating a goal for models and women alike to starve themselves for a waif-like figure is as dangerous as it is common.
“Models think it’s okay to faint from food deprivation, eat tissues, and go on hospital trips to be ‘Paris-thin,’” said Vogue Editor Kirstie Clements in an interview conducted in 2006 by the International Business Times. “Many top fashion editors admire these painfully thin models.”
But is it possible that times could be changing?
In May 2015, France voted to join like-minded countries including Israel, Spain, and Italy, to pass a bill banning the hiring of “ultra-thin”models. The bill was passed in December of 2015, and guidelines for hiring models became increasingly strict.
Legislation now requires fashion editors to receive a release from their prospective model’s doctor declaring their BMI healthy according to their height, body type, and of course, weight before they are hired. As well as monitoring BMI, the legislation requires altered photos in fashion magazines to be labeled as such. Any parties who fail to comply may be charged up to $82,000 dollars and face six months in prison.
This “skinny model law” as it is often called, however, has caused some backlash from French fashion executives. Some executives believe that the law is useless, while others believe that it suppresses artistic freedom. Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani agrees with both.
“This required health certificate is pointless: How will it work? You can always say: ‘She was 10 pounds more when she was booked,’” said Toscani in an interview with Women’s Wear Daily. He also commented on the blatant ignorance lawmakers showed on photography as a profession. “All photos are retouched. Not [just] Photoshop, but even the way we use light can alter the appearance [of a model].”
Although these professionals have a right to their opinions, there is no argument that deems eating disorders as healthy or safe, no matter what the industry thinks. The legislation was intended to stop the global idea of “thinspiration” and curb the spread of anorexic tendencies that not only affect models in the industry, but also women and girls who read fashion magazines and see the emaciated body as an ideal.