It's no secret that runway models are getting younger and skinnier by the day. But Diane Von Furstenberg, president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), has also made it no secret that rules and regulations will be established to combat the dangerous trend.
On Thursday the CFDA released an updated set of guidelines to ensure the health of models walking New York Fashion Week. One particular rule, previously announced in August, requires that no model under the age of sixteen is permitted to walk the runway shows. To enforce the age limit, checking IDs is encouraged.
Healthy eating is the other major concern addressed in the new guidelines. As von Furstenberg and Dr. David Herzog, director of the Harris Center, wrote in an op-ed posted by the CFDA, the issues of age and body image are intricately connected:
Designers generally produce only one sample size for the runway, and in the last decade there has been a dramatic downward shift in the sample size of some of the top design houses. As a result, models are under increasing pressure to be thinner and thinner, and younger and younger. The industry’s hiring of prepubescent-appearing teenage girls as models of adult clothing sets an unrealistic standard; hips and breasts, the curves that define the female figure, are absent. Some models have difficulty maintaining the body ideal as they move into adulthood and run the risk of engaging in unhealthy eating behaviors that lead to eating disorders.
While outspoken criticism of the problem, plus the occasional use of plus-size models in runway shows and fashion editorials, highlights the issue for the public, such gestures do little to create practical solutions.
Thus the CFDA has handed down a new set of clearly articulated guidelines, including the following:
* Educate the industry to identify the early warning signs in an individual at risk of developing an eating disorder.
* Encourage models who may have an eating disorder to seek professional help in order to continue modeling. And models who are receiving professional help for an eating disorder should not continue modeling without that professional’s approval.
* Support the well-being of younger individuals by not hiring models under the age of sixteen for runway shows; not allowing models under the age of eighteen to work past midnight at fittings or shoots; checking IDs to ensure that models are the appropriate age; providing regular breaks and rest. Consult the applicable labor laws found at www.labor.state.ny.us when working with models under sixteen.
* Supply healthy meals, snacks, and water backstage and at shoots and provide nutrition and fitness education.
Additional suggestions regarding education on drugs and cigarettes, as well as workshops on eating disorders, are also spelled out, all of which can be found on CFDA's website.
It's a promising step in the right direction, going beyond op-eds and symbolic gestures to real change. But it is worth noting that the guidelines only apply directly to runway models, leaving magazine shoots, advertisements and other fashion media untouched. Can the fight for healthier models be won if only fought on one front?