The fashion industry is notoriously unregulated when it comes to the types of models it hires and the way they’re treated, and little has changed with recent internal efforts to hire older girls/young women who just aren’t so thin. Even the industry’s own champions of the cause are sometimes guilty, however accidentally, of hiring the girls they’re supposed to be keeping off the runway.
With a new law targeting underweight models, Israel is the first country to go out and address at least one part of modeling’s problems. The ban prevents underweight models from being shown in local ads and requires the country’s publications to disclose any images altered to make a model look thinner, whether a man or a woman.
In order to keep healthy women working, models must produce a medical report, no older than three months, at the time of the shoot. The report simply needs to state that they aren’t malnourished. The qualifications for malnourishment — or lack thereof — are decided according to the World Health Organization’s standards. Basically, this means Israeli women will start seeing models with a body mass index higher than 18.5, which is a rarity in fashion magazines.
It’ll be interesting to see whether the new law actually has an impact. It’s intended to stem the rise in eating disorders, but going after models’ BMI might not be enough — after all, two women with the same body mass index could, and often do, have entirely different eating and exercise habits. That said, even if the law is merely a token to address a growing problem among girls and young women, within the context of a totally unregulated global industry, the legislation seems a lot better than doing nothing at all.