Image: AnyBody protesting at LFW feb 2007 - hoping to make a change
We at AnyBody were as shocked as all of you when we opened the paper on our way to work yesterday and saw that for all of our campaigning and all the promises from the BFC to clean up the London model scene - one of their biggest promises - that to have health checks for all models - is to be scrapped - and to think we thought they were dedicated to the cause! In a true sign of the times the BFC said that they do not have the power to introduce such a change - and that this power lies with the big brands - so it looks like we may have to re-focus our efforts - Marks & Spencer and Topshop beware!
Plans to ban unhealthily thin catwalk models from London Fashion Week have been dropped after other leading cities failed to sign up to the proposals.
Compulsory health checks for underweight models have been abandoned in the face of massive opposition from the fashion industry.
The measures were aimed at deterring the use of size zero models - equivalent to a British size four - but an inquiry concluded they were unworkable.
Health experts criticised the move, saying it sent the message to models that their health did not matter.
The planned requirement for models to obtain a doctor's certificate proving they were in good health had government support. But an inquiry found that making them mandatory in London would lead to models flocking to rival fashion capitals such as New York, Paris and Milan instead.
The British Fashion Council has now called on modelling agencies to take responsibility for the health of their employees.
It said it would still like to see the use of model health certificates but conceded the move would be unenforceable without the support of brands and agencies. A spokesman for actors union Equity, which also represents models, said: 'We need to speak to the British Fashion Council about this as soon as possible to find out their reasons.'
Nutritionist Carina Norris, who supported calls to bring in the doctor's certificates, said: 'This looks like they have something to hide. It suggests a significant number of girls might not be able to pass the health test.
'They are putting out a negative message that the health of the girls doesn't matter that much to them, which is not good.'
It comes as the industry body reports today on how 14 of its recommendations to tackle the use of underweight models and other abuses in the fashion world have been implemented after a year-long inquiry.
The Model Health Inquiry was launched last September because of fears that the promotion of very thin models was causing eating disorders among women.
But the latest report concluded that measurements such as body mass index, based on weight and height ratios, were not accurate or reliable enough to identify eating disorders.
'From our conversation with our international counterparts in New York, Milan and Paris it has become clear they do not recognise the need for an international health certificate. Model agents, casting agents, show producers and models were all consulted,' the report said.
'The BFC now feel we have taken this as far as we can within the remit of our organisation. We now call on the AMA [Association of Model Agencies] to demonstrate leadership and responsibility in safeguarding the health of models represented by its member agencies.'
The voluntary organisation, which is funded by high-street fashion chains and publishers, has claimed success in other areas with a ban on under-16 models and the provision of nutrition and health advice backstage at London Fashion Week.
A best practice code is also being formulated. Hilary Riva, BFC chief executive, said: 'The power ultimately lies with the big international brands.'
CLEANING UP THE CATWALK: HOW THE RECOMMENDATIONS HAVE FARED
The Model Health Inquiry, set up in March last year and chaired by Baroness Kingsmill, made 14 proposals. How have these fared in the past year?
- Ban models under 16 from London Fashion Week.
All under-16 models have been banned.
- Compulsory Criminal Record Bureau checks for anyone working with under-16s off catwalks.
Because London Fashion Week no longer uses underage models, this recommendation can no longer be enforced.
- Compulsory medical certificates 'attesting good health' of London Fashion Week models by September 2008.
Initiative was abandoned.
- All Fashion Week models must be booked through UK agencies to ensure medical checks enforced.
BFC admitted this was anti-competitive and unenforceable under European law.
- Urgent health education programme include eating disorder helpline.
BFC provided funding for an eating disorder awareness seminar.
- Improve healthy backstage environment.
Drugs and alcohol banned in backstage areas.
- Set up self-funded models' union.
Actors' union Equity has taken on this role.
- Establish voluntary code governing digital doctoring of photographs.
Letter written to the Periodical Publishers Association urging them to introduce voluntary code, but no agreement reached.
- British Fashion Council should set up partnerships with other global fashion bodies.
Talks with counterparts in Paris and Milan but no international agreements reached.
- New standards for booking models including mentor 'buddy' system.
Responsibility passed to the Equity union.
- Fund proper study into the prevalence of eating disorders among models.
BFC has asked to work with the Government on this matter.
- Carry out detailed investigation into the working conditions of models.
Responsibility passed to the Equity union.
- Give the British Fashion Council more money to play a stronger role.
- Establish permanent model health panel to monitor these proposals.
This was set up immediately.