France to set fashion body mass minimum

by | Mar 27, 2015 | A&E

Charlotte Morritt-Jacobs

A&E Reporter

According to Humber Fashion students, it’s going to take more than a ban on super thin models to improve the fashion industry’s standard of beauty.

France is moving toward a health reform bill, which would ban designers and labels from using models whose Body Mass Index is less than 18.

The World Health Organization considers anyone with a BMI under 18 to be suffering from malnutrition.

While the average woman’s BMI has increased over the last 50 years from 25.2 in the 1960s to 27.5 in the 2000s, runway models have continued to decrease in BMI.

The new bill would require that models prove their BMI rating through a medical statement and then be subjected to periodic weigh-ins.

Humber Fashion students and graduates agree that the ban would promote healthy weights, but remain weary of the effect it will have on promoting body diversity.

“I think it is a great first step in trying to correct what the fashion industry defines as beautiful, but it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take a while to reverse the idea of what the fashion industry defines as skinny and healthy,” Serena D Vaz, Humber Fashion Arts, alumna said.

Vaz also cited the industry’s preference for very young models as a source of pressure.

Teenage models breaking into the industry are already young and naturally skinny.  Models who are over 24-years-old often feel pressured to be thin and to look young so they can still book jobs, she said.

Allison McKinnon, Humber Fashion Management student said that she believes the ban will have little effect on the public’s obsession with being thin.

“Thin as the ideal beauty standard has been ingrained in our minds for centuries and [the ban] still promotes skinny over fit,” she said.

McKinnon is weary of the mixed messages customers receive from the media who claim to embrace bodies of all shapes and sizes and the fashion lines which use thin models more frequently than plus size models.

“It’s the consumer who sees this and they will buy into both messages. As much as people say that they would rather see a different body shape they still tend to value being thin over being heavy,” McKinnon said.

Aleena AbusSamra, Humber Fashion Arts alumna said that she is hopeful on the ban’s possibility to positively impact women worldwide because of France’s high fashion influence.

AbusSamra said that she hopes that the “love your body” trends found on social media sites such as Instagram will make their way to the runway.

“The fashion industry should look outside the box. In this day and age, being fit is sexy, having some junk in the trunk is foxy and showing off who you are is what is blossoming,” she said.

Italy, Israel, Spain and Chile have already passed motions banning the use of models deemed too thin by healthcare standards.

On March 31, the bill will be reviewed and France could very well join these countries in the battle against eating disorders.