French Fashion Laws

New laws debated in France which would ban underweight models, and introduce fines for fashion houses who hire models that are underweight have been rejected.

Lawmakers on the French Parliament’s health committee rejected two provisions of an anorexia prevention measure but they said they were open to an amendment of the bill which would be debated in April by the full National Assembly.

The bill, if backed by government, would have seen major changes in the fashion industry. France is home to many fashion houses such as Celine, Chanel, and Dior. The law would enforce regular weight checks on models and any fashion house found to be employing models who are underweight could be fined up to €75,000, according to a statement made by Olivier Veran who wrote the amendments, to Le Parisian.

This new law has been met with much criticism as some people feel it should aim not only at dangerously underweight models but also at obese models. The lawmakers also said that they did not want to create discrimination against underweight models in the workplace by making it difficult for them to get a job.

Another problem with the passing of the bill was that it was not clear how models were to be vetted. The use of just BMI’s would not be sufficient as there are a range of things such as it’s inability to distinguish between fat and muscle, which make it inaccurate in determining how healthy a person is.

However, after deaths of models such as Isabelle Caro in 2010, who weighed only 55 pounds, governments need to start somewhere in tackling the problem of underweight models, and addressing the growing problem of eating disorders in the fashion industry.

In France, 40,000 people are suffering from anorexia. Ninety percent of these are adolescents. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, with the mortality rate for anorexia nervosa being 4%. That means, according to statistics, of the 40,000 people suffering from Anorexia nervosa in France 1,600 of them will die from it.

While it cannot be confirmed that there is a direct link between an increase in people suffering from anorexia nervosa and the portrayal of underweight models on catwalks. France, if the amended bill is passed, will be taking a step in the right direction by addressing the issue, as well as helping to protect models from pressures within the industry to be thin.

The new bill could also result in penalties for the promotion of eating disorders publicly through websites or blogs which glorify eating disorders. Sites such as pro-anorexia sites would be shut down, and publicly glorify-ing unhealthy lifestyles in order to get skinny would be a criminal offence.

Michelle Bourke

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