French fashion firms pledge to stop using underage and size zero models

Owners of brands such as Saint Laurent and Louis Vuitton say they want to persuade others in the industry to follow suit

France’s top fashion houses have pledged to stop underage and size zero models from featuring in catwalk shows and advertising campaigns.

The move, which comes on the eve of New York fashion week, was announced by French luxury groups LVMH and Kering, owners of some of the biggest labels in haute couture including Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Gucci.

The industry has long been accused of promoting unhealthy body images to women and ignoring well-documented health problems experienced by models. This year the French government voted through a law requiring models to have a medical certificate confirming they were not dangerously underweight.

The LVMH-Kering Charter on working relations and the well-being of models bans certain designers from featuring women who wear the French size 32 – a size zero in the US. Female models must be at least a French size 34 (US size 2; UK size 6) and male models a French size 44 (internationally labelled as XXS).

It added: “No model under 16 years will be recruited to take part in fashion shows or photographic sessions representing adults.”

Antoine Arnault, son of LMVH director Bernard Arnault and a member of the company’s management, said: “A young girl of 15 years old does not have the necessary experience to deal with the difficult world of modelling.”

François-Henri Pinault, son of Kering owner François Pinault, added: “We wanted to move quickly and hit hard so that things really change. We’re trying to persuade as many others in our profession to follow us.”

Kering and LVMH said the rules would apply to all companies in their groups.

“The two groups are placing respect for and the dignity of women at the heart of their values: that’s why we’ve always had, in particular, the wellbeing of the models we work with in mind,” it said.

“The two groups have agreed to only work with models who hold a valid medical certificate proving their good health and ability to work, which must have been obtained in the six months before a photo session or show.”

As well as banning underage models, those between 16-18 years will no longer be allowed to work between 11pm and 6am and must be accompanied by a parent or chaperone if required to stay away from home.

“The wellbeing of our models is a fundamental subject,” the statement from LVMH read.

A bill approved by the French parliament in December 2015, that came into effect this year, made it obligatory for models working in France to obtain a medical certificate to prove they are healthy, with fines handed out to those who don’t. The bill also obliged magazines to flag up photographs that had been touched up or Photoshopped.

In France, up to 40,000 people – most of them adolescent women – have anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder with a high mortality rate.

Eric Perceval, secretary general of the French Federation of Model Agencies, welcomed the charter and the new rules, saying modelling agencies had been unfairly blamed in the past.

“Until now all they (agencies) have done is respond to the requirements of the clients … agencies have never been the ones who’ve had the final decision over what model will do what advertising campaign or show. All they’ve done is propose models they think correspond to the clients’ criteria,” Perceval said in a statement to the Guardian.

However, he said he did not believe the measures would reduce cases of anorexia, which he added “is an illness that existed before the development of the fashion industry … To criticise models and designers as causes of anorexia is a refusal to understand the real source of eating disorders.”


Kim Willsher in Paris

The GuardianTramp

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