Inside France's New Laws on Modelling

In recent years, the fashion industry has gone through a hefty transformation by developing a more diverse cast of models and promoting body positivity. Between Chantelle Winnie’s rising fame modelling with vitiligo, and #droptheplus gaining popularity on social media, the trade is evolving more and more everyday. The shift continues today with the French National Assembly passing a bill to ‘ban models deemed excessively thin’. This bill is part of a larger health campaign by President Francois Hollande to combat anorexia, which afflicts 30,000 – 40,000 people in France, most of whom are teens.

The bill comes in two parts. Firstly, models will have to meet a BMI of at least 18, which can be benchmarked at about 121 pounds for a height of 5’7”, before hire and must continue to show proof of it for a few weeks after. If an agency fails to meet this requirement, they could face a fine of about 75,000 euros ($82,000) and up to six months of imprisonment. Secondly, retouched photos must be marked as such, and websites prompting readers to "seek excessive thinness by encouraging eating restrictions for a prolonged period of time” may face up to a year in prison and fines up to 100,000 euros.

The need to reform casting policies is evident when looking back at the heartbreaking story of Isabelle Caro, an anorexic french model who passed away in 2010, at age 28, shortly after finishing an anti-anorexia campaign. Caro was 5’4” and weighed only 70 pounds at the end of her life, which was most likely the result of immunodeficiency due to anorexia.

While this is definitely a step in the right direction, the legislation still has its flaws. Isabelle Saint-Felix, the head of France’s National Union of Modelling Agencies, said, "When you look at the criteria behind anorexia, you can’t look only at the body mass index when other criteria are also involved: psychological, a history of hair loss, dental problems." However, with France rivaling New York as a fashion juggernaut, seeing the change happen is a breath of fresh air, and will hopefully continue as agencies and designers begin employ models of every color, shape, size and background.

Photo by Sonny Vandevelde of models during Balmain SS15 at the most recent Paris Fashion Week

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