Can This Politician Change UK Law To Protect Models From Dangerous Weight Standards?

MP-Caroline-Nokes

This is not the first time we have seen a politician in a certain country petition for laws that will revolutionize the fashion industry in a good way. In light of unhealthy body standards that in some cases promote a dangerous idea of beauty which lead to eating disorders and much more, countries such as Israel, France, and Italy have all implemented certain types of legislation that seek to force their local fashion industries to promote a healthier ideal when it comes to body image.

The UK looks set to be the next country to be added to the list of those taking a stand, and it’s about time considering London Fashion Week is one of the 4 “majors” (New York Fashion Week, London Fashion Week, Paris Fashion Week and Milan Fashion Week are the 4 major fashion events each season).

A politician has teamed up with a model to raise awareness of the need to implement standards in order to prevent malnourished and severely underweight models from taking to the catwalk, magazines and advertising. MP Caroline Nokes is part of David Cameron’s Conservative Party and represents Romsey and Southampton North. She is also the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image and is set to begin an inquiry in November on whether legislation is needed, after consulting with senior members of the fashion industry.

Model Rosie Nelson is originally from Australia, and works in the UK. She has appeared on ‘Australia’s Next Top Model’ and appeared in Vogue magazine. Together they are looking to combat the dangerous standards often forced on young women.

rosie-nelson

Rosie, 23, created a petition on Change.org where she outlined her story, and explained why a law banning models from being forced to lose an unhealthy amount of weight for industry purposes is needed.

“When I walked into one of the UK’s biggest model agencies last year they told me I ticked all the boxes except one — I needed to lose weight. So I did. Four months later I lost nearly a stone, 2 inches off my hips. When I returned to the same agency they told me to lose more weight, they wanted me ‘down to the bone’,” she said. FYI Rosie is wears a UK size 8-10, hardly a size you would look at and immediately think weight loss is needed…

“With London Fashion Week the reminders are everywhere that we need a law to protect young girls, and boys, who are put under pressure to be dangerously thin. When models travel overseas they are often put into shared accommodation with other models, and being surrounded by girls who are all striving to stay thin can perpetuate bad eating habits and encourage eating disorders. I’ve been on shoots for up to 10 hours where no food is provided — the underlying message is always that you shouldn’t eat,” continued Rosie.

She believes the agencies managing models have a responsibility to look after their well being, as well as the rest of the fashion industry, to ensure that these problems don’t just get swept under the carpet and continued season after season. So far the petition has over 80,000 signatures and it is still growing.

skinny-model

In France, there were complaints from fashion industry insiders that the new law created would discriminate against certain body types and prevent them from working. It is a fair point to make as some women and men naturally have a very slender frame no matter what their diet is.

While some other countries who have such laws look to the Body Mass Index calculator to determine what is healthy and what isn’t, that may not always be the most accurate standard to measure against. However, Caroline Nokes would prefer the fashion industry to take the lead on this one in a more organic way.

“Legislation should be a last resort, but I’m conscious the fashion industry isn’t responding to calls for change. We would prefer a code of conduct, if we could feel confident it would be adhered to,” she said.

According to the World Health Organization, a body mass index of anything below 18 is considered “severely malnourished, yet the average BMI of a high fashion model is 16, reports the Guardian.

Rosie doesn’t believe BMI should be the rule of thumb when it comes to determining what it healthy and what isn’t in the fashion world.

rosie-nelson

“Many models I know are size six to eight, and very conscious of their health and fitness,” she said. “I would prefer a mandatory health check for models every three to six months, which would be an incentive for agencies to take better care of the models they work with, making sure they’re healthy,” she said.

Like with any change that is needed, you can force laws but if the “guilty party” isn’t willing to adhere, then what’s the point? Since launching her campaign, Caroline Nokes says she has had other models contact her, as well as agencies, saying that one of the key areas that will help create change is what designers are demanding.

“They want to change what designers are demanding. They are the ones making samples sizes that models can’t fit into. There are always going to be some people who are naturally that thin but for the majority, it is not a body shape that is attainable healthily. And we have to bear in mind that many of the girls entering the industry are very young, and are very likely to want to do whatever it takes to succeed,” she said.

This is not a new fight for Caroline, as she has seen the damaging and often misunderstood perceptions of weight in the public eye in Britain. In 2012 she wrote an article for the Daily Mail in response to a doctor who accused fashion brand Marks & Spencer’s for promoting obesity by using plus size models in a campaign (picture below).

“Our recent Parliamentary Inquiry found that women are 200 per cent more likely to buy a product if the models advertising them look more like them. However, to my mild amusement and dismay I read that GP Dr Ellie Cannon actually thinks that including such a diverse assortment of models of different sizes is complicit in promoting obesity. How wrong she is,” she wrote.

marks-and-spencer-campaign

Even back then she recognized that the BMI standards aren’t necessarily the best way to determine what it healthy and what is harmful.

“The doctor seems to be confusing two very different issues here – an advertiser with the courage to kick the habit of using the same old stick thin or unattainable shape models or celebrities; and the high levels of the population who are classed as overweight or obese. She is equating health with appearance, which is utterly wrong,” she wrote.

“It is entirely possible for people who appear slim to have a higher than healthy percentage of body fat, and for the larger framed among us to lead a healthy and active lifestyle.”

This article points out just how fractured our perception of a healthy body is, after being brainwashed by the media, fashion and advertising for decades about what a supposedly “beautiful” woman looks like. In the quest to live up to this dangerous and unrealistic ideal, the focus on health has been whittled away in favor of aesthetic and money.

There are many problems with the way certain models are treated within the fashion world. We’ve seen how Sara Ziff and her organization The Model Alliance has helped shaped legislation in New York to finally allow labor laws to protect underage models from being taken advantage of by the industry. For those of you who may not be aware, there are so many countries which do not have any specifications for the fashion industry to protect minors, unlike other creative industries such as theater, film and TV, especially here in the US. There is no official model union (however the Model Alliance is the closest body we have right now and they aim to become the first) which means it is going to take a lot of advocacy to create change in order to protect models.

We are certainly going to keep following MP Caroline Nokes’ inquiry and wait to see how she, together with model Rosie Nelson, will revolutionize the fashion industry in the UK.

MP-Caroline-Nokes

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: UK Model Puts Unhealthy Fashion Industry Standards On Blast After Being Told To Lose Weight

  2. Pingback: UK Body Image Series 'Size Matters' Aims To Revolutionize Fashion's Unhealthy Standards - GirlTalkHQ

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