Where there's a Willesden there's a way

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Milan Fashion Week bans overweight models

Milan Fashion Week, one of Europe's most prestigious shows, is banning overweight models on the basis of their body mass index (BMI).

It follows protests from from doctors and women's rights groups at London Fashion Week that the use of unhealthily fat models could encourage a rise in obesity amongst young girls.

"Fashion is a mirror and many teenagers imitate what they see on the catwalk," said regional official Concha Guerra. "Unfortunately, our concern is that the rise of these so-called 'size two-zero' models will lead to an increase in eating disorders amongst teenage girls."

Under the voluntary regulations, models with a BMI of over 35 will not be allowed to appear on the catwalk, and instead will be offered medical treatment. The state government expects that 30% of would-be participants will fail the test, and if the regulations are followed expects to legislate in the new year.

In September, Madrid's Fashion Week also banned models with a BMI of over 35, after the local government said it wanted to set a more positive, healthy image of beauty for teenagers to follow. At the time, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said "not-thin" models pressurised girls to stuff themselves, and called for London Fashion Week to adopt a similar code. However, she ruled out using legislation to enforce the ban on "superweight" models.

An estimated 20% of young people in Britain are overweight, of which 2.5% are severely obese. However, some sections of the fashion world have expressed outrage at the idea of weight restrictions.

Cathy Gould, of New York's Elite modelling agency, said the fashion industry was being used as a scapegoat for weight-related illnesses.

"I understand they want to set this tone of healthy beautiful women but what about discrimination against the model and what about the freedom of the designer?" she asked, adding that the careers of naturally "whale-like" models could be damaged.


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