On Sunday 18th September, The Fashion Debates hosted an open panel discussion to further highlight the issues and raise awareness with the invited attendees ranging from fashion industry insiders, lawyers and fashion consumers.
The panel consisted of Rosie Nelson, Amy Williams, a renowned writer for Hello and ES Magazine, Laura Watts of Lennie’s Model Management and founder of The Fashion Debates Olivia Pinnock.
Rosie, a fashion model originally from Australia, now residing in the UK, embarked on her campaign against the health-care of UK models last year; then twenty-one, Rosie was informed by a leading London modelling agency that she was too advanced in years and over-weight to progress as a successful model – Rosie was at the time and still is a UK size eight. Rosie dieted and exercised to lose weight but was still told that she was overweight and shockingly, but not surprisingly Rosie was informed (such practices within the modelling industry are not uncommon) by the agency that:
“We want your bones to be sticking out”
Admiringly, Rosie decided to challenge the status quo and highlight the frequent need by the fashion industry, together with modelling agencies for underweight and unhealthy models. Rosie approached the Women’s Equality Party and has since partnered with the organisation to tackle this issue by initiating the #nosizefitsall campaign together with a petition which to date has amassed 125,344 signatories; a further 24,656 signatures are required in order to reach the required 150,000 figure for the review of this issue by the UK government, to coincide with the London Fashion Week.
The panel discussion commenced with Rosie outlining the following four key provisions that have been presented to the British Fashion Counsel to communicate with UK Parliament upon the required 150,000 quota:
- Models should have a healthy BMI of above 18.5; should a model be found to have a BMI of less than 18.5, they must be referred to a member of an accredited list of medical health professionals and must be deemed fit for work prior to a modelling agency employing or reemploying the relevant model.
- A commitment from the British Fashion Council to ensure that UK fashion designers display x2 different sample sizes at London Fashion Week – x1 sample size 8 and x1 sample size 12 in every range.
- A commitment from UK –based publications to feature a minimum of one plus-size model (UK size 12 or above) within an editorial fashion spread in every issue.
- Body image awareness should be introduced in UK schools as a mandatory and core component of personal, social, health education (PSHE) in schools, with a specific focus on media depictions of beauty, delivered by trained experts as opposed to teachers who specialise in unrelated disciplines
The general consensus of the proposed legislation requirements were that although it’s evident that a change is required within the modelling industry – how practical will it be to facilitate the aforementioned requirements in practice?
Amy Williams put forward the argument that we all need to take responsibility, be that the fashion industry, modelling agencies, fashion photographers and consumers. Further, legislation will not occur overnight (if at all), owing to recent high-priority issues, notably Brexit, can it be said that the healthcare of models will be high on the government’s agenda?
And in the event that legislation is successfully incorporated into UK law, how will those who decide to ignore the four requirements be policed if they decide to avoid compliance by securing work within other jurisdictions where such laws are not applicable?
All points are compelling, however, ironically if the above stance continues to remain as the general consensus, Rosie may find the enforcement of the proposed legislation extremely challenging (to date The British Fashion Council have only conceded to requirement 4 of the proposed legislation).
Nevertheless, in December 2015, France joined Israel, Italy and Spain and adopted a bill aimed at banning the use of fashion models deemed to be "excessively thin”. Those breaking the law face fines and up to six months imprisonment.
Continued debate and discussions around this complex issue and notably how the UK legislate on this matter are beneficial and it’s agreed that there will be challenges; perhaps not all of the proposed requirements are necessary for change (e.g., requirement 3). Excuses and resistance to the changes will ultimately come from those who are happy to push this unhealthy agenda. However, other jurisdictions have demonstrated that a change to legislation is possible.
And despite the resistance there is an avid momentum for change within the UK; Caroline Nokes MP is the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image and is campaigning alongside Rosie for the government to look at the possibility of legislating to ensure models are of a healthy weight.
To sign the petition please visit: https://www.change.org/p/cj-dinenage-create-a-law-to-protect-models-from-getting-dangerously-skinny-lfw-modelslaw
Beverley Dei is the founder of The L.O.F.T. UK , a LCF (London College of Fashion) Industry Mentor and Fashion Lawyer.