France’s skinny models law: Pros and cons

YSL banned ad

This Saint Laurent ad was banned in Britain for featuring a too-skinny model

France has become the latest country to target the modelling industry as it battles against the “glorification of anorexia” saying that models will now need a doctor’s certificate proving they’re healthy before they can walk the runway or appear in an ad campaign.

Unlike other countries where such a ban is purely based on body mass index, the assessment of ‘healthy’ is better and will also be based on age, gender and body shape rather than just BMI.

Additionally, magazines that Photoshop models to change their shape will now have to label the images as ‘touched-up’.

French MP Olivier Veran, who pushed for the law, said: “It is intolerable to promote malnutrition or glorify anorexia and to commercially exploit people who are endangering their own health.”

Magazines and brands risk a fine of at least €37,500 or even a prison sentence for not falling in line.

The fashion industry and experts are divided on the wisdom of the move. Giorgio Armani has praised it as a good thing but model agencies say they have been unfairly singled-out.

In its favour, it’s seen as protecting the health of vulnerable young models and preventing unrealistic/unnatural/unhealthy body types being held up as aspirational to easily-influenced women and girls.

versace ss 16

Ad campaign models have to be ultra-perfect and skinny is a key requirement. Picture courtesy Versace

On the downside, it’s seen as missing the point about the genuine psychological causes of anorexia, patronising women who are less easy to influence than some think, and not targeting the issue of fashion company sample sizes being so small, models have shrunk to fit them.

Personally, I fall in-between the two views. Model health needs to be protected just like that of any other workers and some excessively skinny models do not look healthy. They don’t look attractive either, which is bizarre given that they’re being used to help sell clothes.

I like the idea of knowing when a model’s figure has been digitally altered. If they’re making her larger to disguise an unhealthy weight I’d like to know about it. And if they’re slimming her down to make us think that she’s unrealistically perfect, then I want to know that too.

But on that front, I’d also like to see the beauty industry forced to own up to its models not having perfect complexions, perfect hair or perfectly long lashes after just one coat of ‘miracle’ mascara.

I feel less comfortable with the new rules if they truly think it’s going to miraculously deal a blow to eating disorders.

Most women and girls who are dieting do so to be slimmer/healthier and don’t actually want to be a size zero. And anorexia’s causes are complex – the idea that sufferers are all dieting so they can look like Gigi Hadid is way off the mark.


Gigi Hadid looking like an unretouched picture of health with Tommy Hilfiger

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