Models Below-16 Banned from London Fashion Week

by VR Sreeraman on Sep 16 2007 12:10 PM

Models aged under 16 will be banned from London Fashion Week after an industry report Friday which also said they should have to show a health certificate before being allowed on the catwalk.

But the Model Health Inquiry, set up by the British Fashion Council (BFC), stopped short of barring all models with a body mass index (BMI) below a certain level from the event, which starts Saturday.

It said that using BMI -- a ratio of weight to height -- was "not an accurate method of determining health" and could even encourage models to make themselves vomit to try and manipulate tests.

Its report comes amid a rumbling international debate about whether skinny or size-zero models should be kept off the catwalks because of fears that they could encourage eating disorders among fashion fans, particularly young girls.

Spain and Italy have already barred models with a BMI of less than 18 from their catwalks. A BMI of 18.5 is the World Health Organization's minimum healthy standard.

Two South American models have died in recent months after suffering from eating disorders, the report said.

The report was compiled by a panel of experts including Sarah Doukas, the founder of the Storm model agency who discovered supermodel Kate Moss, designer Giles Deacon, model Erin O'Connor plus a top expert on eating disorders.

It said that its earlier suggestion that under-16s be banned from London Fashion Week catwalks had "met with strong approval".

"The BFC will implement a ban with immediate effect and ensure that no under 16s appear modelling adult fashion during the September 2007 LFW," it added.

The BFC is the organiser of London Fashion Week, which will feature 53 designers including Stella McCartney and Julien Macdonald.

The report also said that models taking part in London Fashion Week from September 2008 "should provide a medical certificate attesting their good health from doctors with expertise in recognising eating disorders."

It accepted that models were members of "a profession which is at a high risk of eating disorders" and noted that there was a "deep lack of knowledge about eating disorders" in the fashion industry.

"Widespread use of unhealthily thin models feeds criticism that the fashion industry is fuelling an unhealthy obsession with thinness and dieting in the wider population," it added.

The report makes a total of 14 recommendations which also include mandatory criminal records checks for all agents, designers and photographers working with under 16s "in line with other sectors working with children".

It also floated the idea of random backstage drug tests and suggested that "good quality food" should be laid on for models and others working behind the scenes at shows.

The Model Health Inquiry issued its interim report in July but launched its final report Friday.

Hilary Riva, chief executive of the BFC, said she agreed with the report's findings on BMI and health certificates, while London Mayor Ken Livingstone said he would "strongly support" the new measures.

The report's findings are not binding but will now be considered by the fashion industry.