Following the examples of Madrid and Milan, the Independent Model Health Inquiry proposed new rules to ban designers from using models under 16 during London Fashion Week. The Independent Model Health Inquiry consists of a panel of fashion industry experts appointed by the British Fashion Council to investigate the health of catwalk models, following the death of two underweight models last year. The panel concluded this month that models under 16 are in danger of being exploited because they are made to represent adult women and work in an insufficiently monitored environment. Working hours for children aged 15 and 16 are restricted by law, yet the long hours teenage models spend at casting sessions are not considered paid employment. In addition, the average age for the onset of anorexia is 16. The panel also called for greater protection of 17 and 18-year-old models, who should be chaperoned at shows.
The same panel asked for more information on whether the 18.5 body mass index (BMI), a ratio of height to weight, requirement adopted by Madrid Fashion Week has been an effective way to check and prevent eating disorders among models in other countries, emphasizing that focus on weighing models can be counterproductive. The College of Psychiatrists advised the panel to weigh models prior to going on the catwalk and to ban models with a BMI of below 18.5.
The panel also urged the British Fashion Council to develop new practice standards for model agencies to screen models for eating disorders when they sign up new models, to follow up with annual check-ups and to provide models access to health counselors. The panel recommended that designers establish a healthy no-smoking, drug-free backstage environment, provide good quality food, and urged for greater transparency about the working conditions for models.
The panel has requested responses to its July report, which will be followed by a final set of recommendations due to be published in September, when London Fashion Week will take place. In January, London Fashion Week organizers refused to agree to a ban on size zero models and as a result lost £ 620,000 of funding from the mayor of London and the London Development Agency.
A New York City Council member proposed weight standards similar to those adopted in Madrid and Milan for young models participating in New York Fashion Week back in February. The Council of Fashion Designers of America issued guidelines to help detect and prevent eating disorders among models by providing nutritious snacks backstage at fashion shows, educating designers about identifying eating disorders, and strongly suggesting that models under 18 years of age not work late-night fittings. So far these proposals have not been adopted as rules. New York’s Spring Fashion Week will take place in September.