Designers In France Can Now Get Arrested For Using Too-Thin Models

Photo: MCV Photo.
The prevalence of too-thin models in fashion has historically been an issue that many industry players talk about, sure — but despite efforts from organizations like the CFDA and model-run Model Alliance, rarely do we actually see any changes on the runway. However, a just-passed French law is hoping to change that, by holding designers and agencies accountable for the health of their employed models. And, if they refuse to comply by these newly stated rules, they could face major fines or even jail time. 

Less than a month since the bill was announced, WWD reported this morning that the French parliament approved a measure to instate strict requirements for any working model in France. The new legislation states that: "The activity of model is banned for any person whose Body Mass Index (BMI) is lower than levels proposed by health authorities and decreed by the ministers of health and labor." Which, according to the bill's earlier proposal, means that each model now has to present a medical certificate that proves she has a BMI of at least 18 before being hired (a BMI of 18.5 or lower is considered "underweight"). 
Models are also required to undergo regular weight checks even after being hired for a job — and if they're deemed too thin, the agency or designer could face up to six months of jail and a fine of 75,000 euros (or $81,152) for breaking the law. Obviously, jail time could potentially mean career suicide for designers, so the French government is betting that many won't risk it to use a specific girl — even if it's a top model. No word yet whether the law applies to international models working in France for Fashion Week. If it does, it's possible that some major runway shake-ups are coming next season.

By putting pressure on the designers and agents with strict numerical guidelines, this new law deliberately leaves zero room for interpretation (or, as many R29 commenters pointed out, consideration for girls with hyper-fast metabolisms or who just happen to be built that way). It's also important to note that the use of BMI as an indication of health is a controversial one. It's unclear whether standing up for models' well-being is the point of this initiative, or whether it's to set a new standard from an optics perspective. If viewers see less super-skinny bodies on the runway (regardless of the models' health), we might worship that body type less. This penal approach also comes in stark contrast with Denmark's recently updated Fashion Ethical Charter, which requires regular medical checkups and healthy eating, but leaves numbers (and BMI) entirely out of the picture.

So, is government legislation the answer to finally make industry-wide changes? Let us know what you think below. (WWD
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