Ban on “Too Thin” Fashion Models Enacted in France

Elie Saab Paris Fashion Week photo

2011 Elie Saab show at Paris Fashion Week by Simon Ackerman

In December 2015, the government of France enacted legislation on the size of models that could appear in commercial runway shows in the country or in commercial photo-shoots. The bill calls for those women seen as “excessively thin” to not be used in fashion collection showings at Paris Fashion Week as well as all other collection debuts. On top of this, the law requires that any commercial image that is altered digitally to make the model appear either thinner or wider be labeled when published as “touched up”, in order to ensure that fashion labels cannot adjust the size of the models after photographs have been taken of them.

Enacted as “weight standards”, France first debated the law in early 2015 on the strength of similar laws passed in Italy and Spain. The standard is determined according to BMI, with large fines levied against modeling agencies and fashion labels that break the law–criminal charges were considered during the legislative debate as well. A previous attempt to pass a similar law in France was defeated on the floor of the Parliament in 2008. The main reason behind the law is to help prevent the inflammation or idolization of eating disorders through the fashion industry, something seen as a public health issue for both the models on the runways and the audience.

A movement towards this kind of ban is popping up outside of Europe as well. In February 2016, word came out that the State of California–home to Los Angeles Fashion Week and Hollywood–is considering a similar ban, along with the Parliament of Great Britain. The law in France is partially enforced by a rule that models must now submit a doctor’s note to their employer stating that their BMI meets the national standard.

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