LONDON (January 25, 2007) — Organizers of London Fashion Week said Thursday they would not ban ultra-thin models from the catwalk, but stressed they had asked designers to use only “healthy” people in their shows.
The British Fashion Council said barring stick-thin models — as fashion weeks in Madrid and Milan have done — “is neither desirable nor enforceable.”
The council, a consortium of major fashion retailers and publishers that oversees London’s twice-yearly fashion weeks, said it recognized its responsibility to help promote a healthy body image.
“We have asked designers, model agencies and image makers to respect this responsibility and to use only healthy models for their collections. Additionally, we recommend that only models aged 16 or over are used,” the council said in a statement. “We believe that regulation is neither desirable nor enforceable. What will make a difference is the commitment of the fashion industry to change attitudes through behavior and education.”
The council said it was setting up a task force to create new guidelines for the fashion industry.
The debate over waif-like models has intensified in the past year as many models and celebrities appear increasingly thin.
In September, Madrid’s Fashion Week, the Pasarela Cibeles, announced it was banning models with a Body Mass Index, or height-to-weight ratio, below 18. A 5-foot-9 model weighing 125 pounds would have a BMI of 18. Milan’s fashion week also tightened its restrictions on underweight models.
The issue was back in the headlines in November, when 21-year-old Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston died of causes linked to the eating disorder anorexia nervosa.
A British Cabinet minister who previously called for ultra-thin models to be banned backed the fashion council’s call for self-regulation.
“I urge strongly the designers taking part to support this,” said Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell.
“Too many teenage girls try to starve themselves into unhealthy thinness, at great risk to their health,” she said. “The fashion industry is hugely powerful in shaping the attitudes of young women and their feelings about themselves. Teenage girls aspire to look like their role models. If their role models are healthy, it will help inspire girls to be the same.”
Designers including Betty Jackson, Nicole Farhi and Julien Macdonald are due to showcase their autumn/winter collections at London Fashion Week beginning Feb. 12.