France enforces new BMI law for fashion models

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Fashion models in France must be above a certain body mass index (BMI), according to recently passed bill.

The bill, passed in April, is part of the country’s effort to reduce the number of eating disorders among models, particularly anorexia, according to CBS News. Fashion models are required to present a certificate, obtained through health experts’ permission, that states that the model has a healthy BMI — calculated based on height and weight.

It is not the only amendment that has been passed to decrease eating disorders in France.

“Lawmakers adopted a related amendment … targeting those who run pro-anorexia websites, and another that would require publications to publish a note telling readers when they have altered a picture to make a model look thinner — or less anorexic,” reported CBS News.

Violating this law can result in charges including six months in prison and a 75,000 euro ($83,000) fine.

The United States is familiar with eating disorders in the fashion industry. In 2013 the fashion organization The Model Alliance reported findings from a survey that stated 31.2 percent of models in America admitted to suffering from eating disorders, and 64.1 percent had been asked to lose weight by their agencies.

“Eating disorders are a dark part of the modeling world,” said Sydney Duncan, model for Salt Lake City agency Niya Model Management. “In the back of your mind, you’re always thinking, ‘How can I be skinnier, to fit certain measurements?'”

Duncan explained that if being thin isn’t a model’s biggest concern, often an agency is asking the model to lose weight. However, Duncan felt this is not a major concern in Salt Lake City.

Erin Olson, over of Echo Models and U.S. scout for New York Models, believes most eating disorders do not stem from the runways. Olson explained that France’s BMI law doesn’t entirely fix the problem of eating disorders because the majority of models are naturally thin.

“In my 10 years of working in this industry, I have only seen one case of anorexia. If a model has an eating disorder, it’s because of deeper psychological issues. It’s not simply because they want to be thin.”

Olson explained that the best way to combat this problem is to educate models from a young age about how to maintain good health.

“Many modeling agencies in the U.S. are already doing that,” Olson said. “They are teaching girls how to eat nutritiously and to exercise regularly. If they find out a model has an eating disorder, it’s taken very seriously. The agency will often provide her with therapy.”

Duncan feels that the new legislation in France is a step forward in the worldwide fashion industry, particularly in making the industry more accountable for promoting positive images of health.

“The sample size ‘0’ should not be the official size for a model,” Duncan said. “How do we enforce that change? I don’t know, but this piece of legislation might be a great way to start.”

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