BMI Regulation in the Fashion Industry



1 July, 2015
Posted by Jennifer

BMI regulation in the fashion industry

In March this year, the French government proposed legislation that sought to ban the use of underweight models at Paris Fashion Week. While Australia still appears apprehensive to legislate in this area, the globalised nature of the fashion, and particularly modelling industries will likely see the effects of France’s decision being felt at home.

The recent outcry at last year’s Melbourne Fashion Week over the weight of a model chosen to walk for designer Alex Perry reignited the discussion over Australian Industry Standards. When the designer was questioned as to her unhealthy appearance, the fact she had recently returned from Paris Fashion Week was frequently cited.

Under the proposed bill, modelling agencies and managers could face up to a $100,000 AUD fine or six months imprisonment for employing models with a body mass index of less than 18. The Victorian Government’s Better Health Channel identifies a BMI of less than 18.5 as being ‘very underweight and possibly malnourished’. In what is being labelled France’s ‘anti-anorexia bill’, medical certificates must be produced to demonstrate that models are of a healthy weight and capable of working at fashion week.

However, France is far from the first country seeking to regulate and promote healthy body weight within the fashion industry, following regulations already in place in Spain, Italy, Israel, Chile and Belgium.

Opponents to similar legislation in Australia suggest that measuring BMI is only one indicator of a model’s health, and can in fact have the negative effect of creating further fixation on weight and size. Instead, an overall shift in designers’ preferences for a variety of body shapes is needed.

Most noticeably, at this year’s Australian Fashion Week, swimwear designers We Are Handsome presented their most recent collection with models of widely varying body shapes. The show received an overwhelmingly positive response, and can be seen as an example of change within the Australian Fashion Industry.

In an attempt to promote this change, in 2009 the Australian Government appointed The National Advisory Group on Body Image to develop the Voluntary Industry Code of Conduct for the fashion, media and advertising industries. The code outlines principles to guide industries to adopt more body image friendly practices, encouraging more diversity in the selection of models, a wider range of clothing sizes in retail fashion, the use of realistic and natural images of people, and disclosure when images have been digitally manipulated. Although the code aims to promote positive action in this area the voluntary code is just that, voluntary, and examples of body image diversity are still far from the norm.

Written by Studio Legal (C) 2015.  


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