Following the lead set last season by fashion officials in Madrid – where excessively skinny models were banned from their catwalk – the Italian Chamber of Fashion has decreed that in order to walk the Milan runways, a model will need a license. Issued by an impressive tag-team of dignitaries: a committee of city officials, the Chamber of Fashion, the Association of Fashion Services, ASSEM and a scientific committee, the license will vouch for the fact that the model is at least 16 and in good health – defined as a World Health Organization Body Mass Index of 18.5.
Unlike Spain, the Italians intend to incorporate differences in body size that arise because of ethnicity and geography. "This is a code of self-regulation," Letizia Moratti, the mayor of Milan, recently told WWD, "and it is connected to those lifestyles that lead to social diseases. The risk is that we are not protecting the health of the models and the impact on the young adolescents who see models as a reference point to achieve beauty."
However, many in the heart of the fashion business disagree. "I don't think the code will change fashion, and fashion is not the cause of juvenile problems," opines designer Roberto Cavalli. "There are other ways to take care of our young generation: stop showing half-naked starlets on television, ban silicone implants if one is not at least 25, for example," said Cavalli. As for the models' age limit, the designer agreed with the code. "I never have models who are too young, in fact, I would even raise the age to 18."
Despite the fact the new code was unveiled without bothering to invite fashion designers and their PR reps to attend, many have an opinion. What some of the other fashion types had to say about the code:
ANNA MOLINARI "Given the fact that the runways have become a model of beauty and elegance for young adolescents who are still looking for their identity...the fashion world should take responsibility for its role, dismissing those 'excesses' that can become dangerous for the youngest. I firmly believe we should recover the concept of beauty and balance, harmony, proportions and health, elegance and seduction that don't necessarily match with sizes."
BEPPE MODENESE (Fashion insider) "The weight problem has always existed and it's right to talk about it, but in the end, it's an issue for the modeling agencies."
ISABEL MARANT (French designer) "It's a mixed debate. It's an agency's responsibility to monitor their girls closely, but to weigh models and enforce restrictions based on weight alone is not realistic." (Models Erin O'Connor, Kristen McNemany and Audrey Marnay are rumored to be big eaters despite their deceptively small frames.)
DIDIER GRUMBACH (Head of the Chambre Syndicale in Paris) "We work with two unions in Paris [to oversee models] and up to now that arrangement has worked. If one day any agency is unprofessional we will do something. But at this point that is not the case. There have been no breeches of conduct. I don't see why we should regulate something that functions."
DIANE VON FURSTENBERG (Current president of the CFDA) "I am very interested in finding a way designers can really help this issue. I cannot speak in the name of the CFDA until I speak to my fellow designers who I represent. I am very sensitive to this matter and will address it. Right now, I am assembling information so that we can really be effective."
STEVEN KOLB (Executive director of the CFDA) "Initiatives that address healthier models are a positive thing. To what degree do you enforce or regulate it is the question. I think that as we in the States contemplate or consider our own action, there are a number of suggested recommendations that we can put forward to the fashion community in terms of portraying beauty and health on the runway, but I don't know if you would ever be in a position to regulate them in a way that is so strict." (via WWD)
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- Lesley Scott