London Fashion Week, Fashion’s biggest pop up, has always had a buzz on the global fashion calendar. This time around the appearance of models on the catwalk is being debated by industry experts. The shift in focus came after British MP Caroline Nokes said a new law banning models with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of under 18 should be considered. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) had also banned an ad by Yves Saint Laurent which featured a model which the ASA had described as unhealthily underweight.
Upholding its ruling, the watchdog had said “The ASA considered that the model’s pose and the particular lighting effect in the ad drew particular focus to the model’s chest, where her rib cage was visible and appeared prominent, and to her legs, where her thighs and knees appeared a similar width, and which looked very thin, particularly in light of her positioning and the contrast between the narrowness of her legs and her platform shoes.”
Although the ASA has previously banned some fashion outlets and advertising companies on similar grounds, it’s obvious the call by MP Caroline Nokes has driven home the need to re-examine the looks of models in the fashion industry. For an industry which has had a preference for thin models, the current development will certainly cause a stir. A number of countries including Israel and France have banned models that are excessively thin from catwalk shows, and fashion houses and agents could be fined or jailed if they break that law.
Commenting on the issue in an interview on Channel 5’s News Tonight, Model Agency Manager, Carole White said it was less likely the limitation would have the intended impact. “Personally, I don’t believe BMI as a measurement…everyone is different. I think it was developed for athletes and men athletes as well so I think it’s a bit of a load of baloney actually…it’s just that no one knows how to define what’s good and what’s bad”. Former model and campaigner Natasha Devon, said it was important to recognise the diverse range of models in the industry. “There are people who are naturally slender and we don’t want those people to feel that their body shape is in any way unacceptable or dangerous…we need to include thin people in our spectrum of beauty and also people at the other end of the scale,” she suggested.
From all indication, the debate on whether or not to ban thin models will rage on for some time. In spite of the proposed ban, it is important to adopt an approach that will not alienate models that are naturally thin in the fashion.