‘We have needed this’: French fashion giants ban size-zero models

Updated September 07, 2017 15:53:53

French fashion companies LVMH and Kering have signed a joint charter vowing to stop hiring size-zero models worldwide in response to continued criticism the industry encourages eating disorders.

Key points:

  • The pact bans the conglomerates’ labels from using models below an Australian size 6
  • The charter requires models to submit a medical report every six months
  • Curvy model Abby Valdes says the move is long overdue

The pact adopted by French corporations LVMH and Kering, which own brands like Dior, Gucci and Louis Vuitton, incorporates — and goes beyond — a new French law that requires models to provide medical certificates proving they are healthy before they can work.

While the French law set to take effect on October 1 requires both male and female models to present a health certificate obtained within the previous two years, LVMH and Kering said their charter would shorten the timeframe to six months of the job.

The pact also bans the conglomerates’ labels from using female models below a French women’s size 34, which is typically equivalent to a US size 0-2 and a UK/Australian size 6.

The French law initially included a minimum body mass index (BMI) requirement, but it was removed after lawmakers deemed the doctor’s certificate an adequate safeguard.

In addition to fulfilling physical requirements, the charter requires each brand to put a dedicated psychologist at the disposal of fashion models during working eithers — either by phone or in person at the workplace.

The two groups said they introduced the charter with the hopes of setting a new global standard for the fashion industry.

“We hope to inspire the entire industry to follow suit, thus making a real difference in the working conditions of fashion models industry-wide,” Kering chief executive Francois-Henry Pinault said in a statement.

‘We have needed this’

Model Abby Valdes, who wears the average Australian woman’s clothing size of 12-16, has applauded the companies for bringing their standards in line with those of the consumer.

“I’m really proud of them for doing this. They need to uphold it,” Valdes said.

“I hope that this is the beginning of a long, long, list of others who follow suit. We have needed this.”

Valdes is one of Australia’s most successful plus-size models, having worked with labels such as Tommy Hilfiger and Marina Rinaldi over the span of her decade-long career.

But she still continues to experience discrimination on a regular basis within the industry.

“I have been living in New York for 10 years and certainly had a stylist or two look me up and down and just say, ‘I don’t know what to do with you’,” she said.

Valdes said it was time the rest of the industry started to shift its mindset to promote a healthier and more realistic message across the board.

“We’re real people and women, we want to see ourselves everywhere and these minus sizes and size-zero sizes, I don’t know anybody in my real life who looks like that,” Valdes said.

“I think when you’ve got a size that doesn’t exist, like size zero, you’ve got a problem. When you want kids to be in a size that is minus, you’ve got to take a look at that.

“We’ve got a voice to express ourselves … it’s high time they stopped trying to tell us what we want because we’re the consumers.

“It’s time we tell them what we want and we are.”

Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and Stella McCartney are among the major labels to adopt the new casting requirements.


Topics: fashion, womens-health, health, women, france, australia

First posted September 07, 2017 15:26:18

Diagnosed with MS at 17, young woman finds solace in painting

Posted August 02, 2017 19:37:04

For five years, Caitlin Martin struggled to work out what was wrong with her.

Crippling headaches that stayed with her for weeks at a time; fatigue so bad she struggled to get out of bed. Then there was the pain of being dismissed by a succession of doctors who were baffled at best, and dismissive at worst.

“It made you feel so helpless and hopeless,” Caitlin, 19, told Lateline.

“You just need someone to help you and there is no-one.”

She was repeatedly told her symptoms were the result of being a teenager going through puberty. That changed the day she was finally diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

“We went out to dinner afterwards and sort of celebrated, because once you know what something is, you can treat it and move on,” she said.

“It is just the not knowing that is the hardest part.”

Multiple sclerosis attacks the central nervous system and can impact on the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. It is the most common neurological disease among young adults.

The average age of diagnosis is 30; 75 per cent of those diagnosed with MS are women.

In the Hunter region, where Caitlin is now being treated, there has been a sharp increase in the number of people diagnosed with the disease.

“In the last 15 years the prevalence and the incidence in this area has doubled,” Associate Professor Jeannette Lechner-Scott, the senior staff specialist in neurology at the John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle, said.

“And it is more female and young female patients that are diagnosed with this disease.”

No-one is absolutely sure why that is.

“Potentially the environment, with lack of sunlight exposure, diet, [and] increasing obesity might be factors that play a role,” Dr Lechner-Scott said.

Creative outlet important while enduring illness

Caitlin was diagnosed as she was about to begin her HSC. Her final years of school were tough.

“I think high school is a super tough time for anyone, the HSC especially,” she said.

“But for me personally I didn’t think I was actually going to graduate. But I did — and that makes me emotional because I am proud of myself.”

MS for Caitlin meant enduring fatigue, poor word recall, cognitive fog and weakness on her left side. At one point, the bottom half of her face went numb. Another time, she lost feeling in a foot.

She had long harboured a desire to become a biomedical scientist. The diagnosis changed that. Art, which started out as therapy, is now firmly the focus of her career. She is studying to become a teacher in creative industries.

“I decided that I really wanted to pursue art and make my life fun — have a good quality of life and just create and be happy,” she said.

Caitlin sees herself fortunate to be diagnosed so young.

“There are different types of multiple sclerosis. I have relapsing remitting, which is the good type to have because that means there are lots of different treatment options around for me,” she said.

“Being treated so young, my disease progression has been significantly slowed down.”

Her art now acts as a kind of therapy.

“When you have an illness I think that you need a creative outlet — you need something to channel your energies and emotion into.”

Watch Caitlin’s story on Lateline tonight at 9:30pm on the ABC News channel and 10:30pm on ABC TV.

Topics: arts-and-entertainment, painting, visual-art, health, womens-health, multiple-sclerosis, newcastle-2300

Are body standards in Australia’s fashion industry up to scratch?

Posted May 18, 2017 18:21:30

The who’s who of fashion have flooded into Sydney for Mercedez-Benz Fashion Week and while all eyes are on the designs, there are calls for more attention to be paid to the size and health of the models wearing them.

Experts and advocates have raised concerns about Australia’s voluntary code of conduct, where the industry essentially self-regulates what size model is considered healthy.

Dr Sandra Symons from the University of Technology Sydney, whose research specialises in body image depiction in the print media, said because of its voluntary nature, Australia’s standards are basically “non-existent”.

She said while everybody agrees it is an important issue, nothing changes.

“They have to, in a way, self-regulate and scrutinise the models that they are going to use in their photographic representations, on catwalks and in shows,” she said.

For Dr Symons, nothing is going to change unless the public makes a fuss about it because the industry would not be taking the initiative.

She said those in the industry have a distorted ideal of what looks healthy.

“They’re as bad as the models they use,” Dr Symons said.

“It’s not for no reason that these young models are called coat hangers. The fashion industry wants to see their clothes hanging on these coat hangers.

“No-one in the industry is going to defend the idea of hiring super-thin models, but they’re all also not going to do much about it.”

Body image in the fashion industry: wealth over wellbeing

In 2009, a panel of media, fashion and eating-disorder-sector experts developed the Voluntary Industry Code of Conduct on Body Image.

Under this code, the fashion industry is required to use models older than 16, “clearly of a healthy weight”, and their images should not be modified so bodies look “unrealistic or unattainable through healthy practices”.

The Butterfly Foundation CEO Christine Morgan said while the voluntary code was raising awareness, it had fallen short on many fronts.

“Due to the code’s voluntary nature and the multi-billion-dollar industry that it was trying to influence, business principles have dominated over a willingness to respond to community expectation of the industry’s design, marketing and promotion behaviour,” she said.

“It’s time for the fashion and media industries and health professionals to come together with governments to develop a stronger and more effective approach.

“If that results in legislation, it will come from a unified position.”

Should legislation dictate body standards?

Laws that have only just come into effect in France require models to provide a doctor’s certificate attesting to their overall health and proving their body mass index (BMI) sits within a healthy range in order to work.

Laws that will come into force from October require images where the appearance of a model has been photoshopped to display a disclaimer.

In 2014, Israel passed its own laws requiring all photoshopped images to have a clear disclaimer.

But whether such measures should be imposed on the Australian fashion industry has experts divided.

Associate Professor at the Queensland University of Technology Evonne Miller, who has conducted extensive research into body image and the media for her PHD, was wary that legislating against this industry practice could be overreaching.

“We’ve got to careful that we don’t become a police society,” she said.

“My preference would be that [the voluntary code] be compulsory.”

Dr Symons said France’s new laws feel very draconian, but said governments certainly have their role to play in bringing about any social change.

She believes the Federal Government should team up with industry bodies to create a consistent, positive message about healthy body image.

“I guess it’s a bit like smoking — nobody wants to hear the bad message. The industry has to be shamed into action.”

But Ms Morgan welcomed France’s legislative commitment, saying it was a step in the right direction in ensuring a healthy body image within the beauty and fashion industry.

“This is a much-needed response to a sinister form of promotion that can have a deadly impact,” she said.

“Any business that deliberately uses underweight models to market their products is complicit in their exploitation.”

Topics: fashion, design, arts-and-entertainment, health, diet-and-nutrition, womens-health, mens-health, australia