It’s no secret that the fashion industry has a notorious problem with body image. It goes both ways; models are vilified for either being too skinny or if they sport a more curvy frame, but the main message constantly pushed out is that you need to be thin to win. Now, steps are being taken to combat this message. France recently issued a new ruling citing that all models would need to have a medical cert saying they were healthy enough to work, and the UK Government also met to discuss one model’s petition to criminalise those who hire models who are dangerously underweight.
Now, in the latest bid to address the issue of eating disorders in the industry, one British brand has insisted that their models must sign “non-negotiable contracts” that will require them to eat a meal in their presence.
Heidy Rehman, founder of the fashion label Rose & Willard, explained her company’s decision in a Huffington Post essay this week: “Yes, it’s a form of nannying, but we feel we have a responsibility to protect these young women from an industry which we believe can leave them exploited and puts them under pressure to starve themselves and damage their health and well-being,” she wrote.
And not only that, if they fail to comply, their payments will be withheld. “We will not allow her to only eat a tiny morsel and/or suggest she’ll eat later. The consequence of non-compliance will be that neither she nor her agency will be paid.”
Eating disorders are rampant in the fashion world. The Model Alliance, a union, based in the US, ran a survey which found that over 31% of respondents who work as models have had an eating disorder.
To come to her decision, Rehman explained that she asked every model (some as young as 12) if they felt pressured to lose weight. “They all said ‘yes.'” When taking test shots with models ahead of a campaign launch, none of the models ate anything during the day of shooting (one became delirious and had to be sent home). She found out also that it was common practice for models to eat tissues ahead of castings to stop their stomachs from rumbling, which sounds both shocking and horrific.
The concerns behind Rehman and the French and UK Governments are undoubtedly well placed for all the reasons we’ve outlined above, however, Rose & Willards strategy of watching over models and insisting they eat, begs the question: how far is too far? Are they taking a necessary step forward or being evasive?
Read Rehman’s full essay here.