American Fashion Industry Issues, Fails to Enforce Health Guidelines
> 2/7/2007 10:51:50 AM

New York's February fashion week is one of the industry's most lavish, celebrated events. Amid the lights, parties and big names, it would seem to be very easy to forget the issue that has wracked fashion for the past year: the increasing prevalence of eating disorders among models and the young women they influence.

Where Spain's Association of Fashion Designers passed a ruling to forbid the participation of models with BMIs lower than 18 (the World Health Organization states that 18.5 or below is underweight) and asserted that display clothes be no smaller than size 8 (the average American woman wears size 14), the Council of Fashion Designers of America issued a statement containing general guidelines but no plans for direct enforcement. Among their suggestions:

There should be no models under 16 and no work after midnight for models 18 and younger; the consumption of cigarettes and alcohol on location should be forbidden; statements on the early signs of eating disorders should be officially issued to those in the industry; models identified as suffering from eating disorders should be required to receive professional help; the industry should develop workshops designed to address the impact of eating disorders and the negative effects of smoking; organizers should provide "healthy" snacks backstage during shows.
Glaringly absent from this list are any mentions of body mass or plans for enforcing the guidelines proposed within. While designer-sponsored press releases and conferences convey some degree of responsibility on the industry's behalf, they ultimately amount to little beyond empty attempts to satiate the public's desire for some form of regulation. Designers attempt to shift blame to the modeling agencies themselves which, they argue, serve as the "mother(s) of the models." The idea that these agencies should control the eating habits of their models while designers continue to showcase remarkably small clothing is difficult to rationalize. In another flaccid attempt to deflect criticism, the organization's executive director claims that "A lot of the girls who work the runway are genetically thin. You go backstage and you see a lot of girls eating a lot of food and they're not gaining weight." Statements like these strain credibility, and many eating disorder advocates are not satisfied with the measures taken thus far, believing that PR campaigns and suggested guidelines constitute an insufficient response to a very serious problem.

In a society where more than 80% of ten-year old girls describe a fear of getting fat and one in two fourth graders are currently on some kind of diet, those who are even indirectly responsible for shaping the popular conception of beauty and body image need to reassess their own principles. After viewing photos of fashion models, 70% of young women described themselves as angrier and more depressed than they had been before. In surveys, three out of four women listed an ideal size at least 10% underweight. And despite the presence of eating disorders and body image issues across the social spectrum, most insurance companies hesitate to approve treatment for these conditions, essentially making the argument that the issue is not a matter of diagnosable disease but a faulty sense of self-control. Designers, advertisers and models themselves argue that they have no control over the state of their industry and the ideals it projects - they simply go along with whatever sells at the time. Who, then, is responsible, if not the producers of the very images that encourage the epidemic? PR campaigns aside, consumers and public health advocates cannot tolerate this continued reassignment of blame. The fashion industry must own up to its pivotal role in the eating disorder debate and strictly enforce regulations designed to promote healthier, more realistic lifestyles.


Your right. It is ashame of what the fashion industry is doing to our communitty. The fashion industry has such a strong effect on our young females.
Posted by: Christy Leath 12/14/2007 1:39:44 AM

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