France Places Ban on Too-Thin Models

Could the U.S. follow suit?
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Dhani Mau
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Could the U.S. follow suit?
Chanel's fall 2015 show in Paris. Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Chanel's fall 2015 show in Paris. Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

France is the latest country to ban too-thin models from posing for ad campaigns and walking in runway shows. Under a new law passed on Friday, a model cannot work if her Body Mass Index (BMI) is "lower than levels proposed by health authorities and decreed by the ministers of health and labor," according to Reuters. Under the law, that number is 18 for someone 5'7." Casting agents and fashion houses who violate the law could be subject to imprisonment of up to six months, and a fine of €75,000 ($82,000).

The law also restricts the type of weight loss advice that a website can give out. If an article encourages readers to "seek excessive thinness by encouraging eating restrictions for a prolonged period of time, resulting in risk of mortality or damage to health," those behind the website could face up to a year in prison and fines up to €100,000. Both measures are part of a wider crackdown against anorexia on the part of French President Francois Hollande. 

While a few other countries, including Italy, Israel and Spain, have passed similar laws in recent years, France's ban could have the biggest impact. You can't dispute Paris's power as a fashion capital — the city is home to the most renowned designers, agencies and magazines in the world, all of which employ lots and lots of models.

But, that doesn't necessarily mean that the remaining big fashion capitals will follow suit. In the U.S., for instance, fashion's "governing body," the CFDA, works to educate members of the industry about nutrition and warning signs for eating disorders, sending out a set of health guidelines to members of the industry each season. The organizations's president Steven Kolb has said that it has no intention of pushing for legislation, preferring, instead, to educate and create awareness.