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Lifestyle

French fashion houses ban super skinny models

As New York Fashion Week kicks off, two luxury powerhouses are buckling down on unhealthy modeling practices. Their new charter requires medical certificates and lays out work restrictions for young adolescent models.

The Paris-based luxury good portfolios Kering and LVMH, whose combined brands include top fashion brands such as Dior, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Stella McCartney and marc Jacobs, signed a charter on Wednesday that prohibits the hiring of female models below a French women's size 34 (US size 0-2, UK size 6) and a men's 44.

The ban includes casting for print and runway alike and extends to the portfolios' worldwide activities.  

The document also calls for all models to present medical certificates dated within the previous sixth months that prove they are healthy.

Read more: Trans, Muslim or nonwhite: How fashion is being disrupted by real people

The document drawn up and signed by Kering and LVMH goes beyond a French law that will come into effect on October 1. While the legislation had also called for health certificates for models, they could be dated within the past two years. In addition, the law only regulates models working in France, whereas the two conglomerates restrictions will be applied worldwide - such as the Fashion Weeks kicking off Thursday in New York and continuing in London, Milan and Paris through early October.

In announcing the charter, Kering and LVMH underlined their desire to safeguard models' health and dignity and expressed that "they have a specific responsibility, as leaders in the industry, to go one step further with their brands."

An unhealthy industry

The two portfolios' announcement coincided with the opening of New York Fashion Week, one of the most important events in an industry that has been plagued by health and safety scandals and accused of promoting unrealistic body ideals.

Read more: Claudia Schiffer book celebrates 30 years of modeling

Accounts by former models of starvation diets to meet casting size requirements and the resulting physical and psychological damage, which include the 2010 death of former model-turned-activist Isabelle Caro due to anorexia, resulted in pressure to regulate the modeling industry. Various countries now require a minimum body mass index (BMI), a height-to-weight ratio, in order to walk the catwalk, though France is not among them. 

Former model Isabelle Caro died from anorexia (picture-alliance/dpa)

Isabella Caro appeared in an anti-anorexia campaign before dying from the disease

The regulations outlined by the charter will go into effect this month, the companies said.

The use of models as young as 14 and 15 in fashion shows is another point of controversy that the Kering and LVMH charter addresses. It states that models under the age of 16 cannot "take part in shows or shootings representing an adult." It additionally requires all 16-to-18-year-old models to be accompanied by a chaperone or guardian, including in their accommodation.

All models will also have access to a dedicated mental health professional during working hours. The charter also regulates alcohol consumption and establishes a monitoring committee.

The two houses would like to see their measures adapted by others in the fashion world.

"We hope to inspire the entire industry to follow suit, thus making a real difference in the working conditions of fashion models industry-wide," Kering's chairman Francious Henri-Pinault said in a statement.

cmb/kbm (AP, AFP)

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