by Layla Link
Recently French MPs have adopted a bill aimed at banning the use of fashion models deemed to
be “excessively thin”. Did the French government go too far in its attempt to ban excessively thin models from the fashion industry, with stiff fines and the prospect of jail time for brands that break the new law? Or is this a move in the right direction in the model industry? I doubt anyone will openly promote the hiring of an underweight model but opinion seems to be divided about this controversial new law.
The ruling, which passed last week, had been in the works for months. The new law states that each model needs a doctors certificate to ensure they are a healthy weight and BMI. Furthermore, any commercial photographs of models that have been digitally altered will need to include a disclosure stating so. Some fashion executives are reacting to the tough French law which includes a punishment of six months in jail and the equivalent of a £54,000 fine.
France joins Italy, Spain and Israel which are already legislated similarly on the issue. Israel passed a law banning underweight models in 2012. The bill is likely to include all commercial photos of models, including editorial material, and envision fines for those who hold the rights to the images as well as those who are subsequently reproducing them. However the exact law has not yet been disclosed and is likely to surface at the start of 2016.
30,000 to 40,000 people are affected by anorexia in France. Despite this disturbing statistic, the ruling already has its detractors. Oliviero Toscani, the photographer behind Nolita’s anti anorexia campaign in 2007 which featured model Isabelle Caro who died in 2010 said the required health certificate is pointless: “How will it work? You can always say: ‘She was 10 pounds more when she was booked.” Toscani’s point is a valid one which is where the problem lies. France’s law is simply an attempt to target the problem of weight in the model industry. We need to create a healthier and more secure work environment for models at all times. The current law states that a doctors note is required before hiring a model however how can it be guaranteed that the model will remain “a healthy weight” for the duration of her working life? Some argue that this law is too strict however I believe it needs to be reinforced even more. Working conditions in every other industry are in place and monitored to keep the workers safe so why is it different in the modelling industry? Why is it that only now laws are coming into place to ensure models are treated with respect