Blog: Leonie BarrieThe weight debate

Leonie Barrie | 26 January 2007

Just compare and contrast the two different stances taken by the fashion industries in the UK and Spain this week. Yesterday the British Fashion Council refused to ban ultra-thin models from catwalk shows, urging the industry to instead use “healthy models for its collections”; while on Wednesday some of Spain’s top retailers pledged to re-size their clothes to reflect “real women.” In fact, fashion show organisers in Madrid were the first to spark the debate over the link between ultra-thin catwalk models and eating disorders in young girls – and enforced the ban so strictly that around one-third of models were turned away from its catwalks in September. And last month fashion houses in Milan also lent their support by introducing a voluntary ban on super-skinny models.

So why does London seem to be dragging its heels? The links between ultra-thin models and rising levels of eating disorders in impressionable consumers seems to be proven. As does the fact that it’s not healthy for anyone – models included – to be a US size zero (UK size 4) as several recent deaths show. So suggesting that designers and model agencies use “healthy” models, without stipulating what this is, is pretty much giving the industry a free reign to set its own guidelines. This is exactly what it’s been doing for years.

Of course an outright ban on skinny models would be difficult to enforce. Would it mean having weighing scales and doctors behind the scenes at every fashion show? Or maybe it’s because the sponsors of London Fashion Week, including Topshop, Tissot, Superdrug and Renault, can’t reach an agreement. Or perhaps there needs to be a more widespread consensus between not only the designers, but also retailers and the media to lead a change of opinion and, more importantly, attitude. But if they can make these changes work in Spain, then why can’t we in London? 

Fashion Council won't ban ultra-skinny models


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