Could Super-Thin Models Be Banned From British Catwalks Soon?

Photo: MCV.
Healthier models may be coming to the U.K. soon: Parliament members are considering legislation protecting models from pressures to be too thin — the result of a petition that has more than 50,000 supporters.

Model Rosie Nelson, who’s a U.K. size 8 (that’s a U.S. size 4), started the petition on Change.org over the weekend. "When I walked into one of the U.K.’s biggest model agencies last year, they told me I ticked all the boxes except one — I needed to lose weight. So I did,” she wrote in her introduction to the petition. “Four months later, I lost nearly a stone {approximately 14 pounds], two inches off my hips. When I returned to the same agency they told me to lose more weight, they wanted me ‘down to the bone.’”

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A photo posted by Rosalie Nelson 🐼🇦🇺 (@rosalienelson) on

Nelson is advocating for model health checks every three to six months — not BMI minimum requirements: “I don’t think BMI is the right measure, because many models I know are [U.K.] size six to eight, and very conscious of their health and fitness,” Nelson told The Guardian. “I’ve been on shoots for up to 10 hours where no food is provided — the underlying message is always that you shouldn’t eat,” Nelson wrote in her petition.

Caroline Nokes, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image, is spearheading the investigation of model health standards. She’ll be meeting with members of the U.K. fashion industry to discuss whether legislation is necessary to take better care of models. Nokes even tweeted about Nelson’s petition: “@rosalienelson really pleased to support this change.org/modelslaw #BeReal." The British Fashion Council currently addresses some model wellness concerns by offering therapists, meals, and even massages to models between shows in its “Model Zone” initiative, though it’s a light-handed approach to the issue.

There’s been a push for model health regulations recently in a couple of different countries, although progress is fairly slow. In April, France passed legislation requiring models to have regular weight checks, as well as maintain a BMI of at least 18 — and present a medical certificate to prove it. Modeling agencies or designers that work with models who don’t meet the minimum BMI can be slapped with a fine of 75,000 euros (that’s $83,495) and up to six months in jail.

Denmark updated its Fashion Ethical Charter in March, which vaguely mandates healthy eating and regular medical checkups but doesn’t have a BMI minimum. Stateside, there’s the CFDA’s Health Initiative, which was started in 2007 to address what it calls “the overwhelming concern about whether some models are unhealthily thin, and whether or not to impose restrictions in such cases.” However, the Initiative has seemed a bit more focused on keeping underage models off the catwalks as of late. (There’s also a U.S. nonprofit labor group that launched in 2012, Model Alliance, which addresses models’ well-being and rights.)

Legally enforced weight requirements and health checks aren’t the only measures being taken to address size concerns in the industry. In June, a Spring 2015 ad by Saint Laurent was banned by the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority because the image featured “unhealthily underweight” model Kiki Willems; the organization blasted the brand for being “irresponsible."

If Nelson’s petition actually leads to health-regulation laws for models strutting in the U.K., will the Fall 2016 runways at London Fashion Week look seriously different? Stay tuned.

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