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This Isn’t the Answer to Fashion’s Body-Image Issues

Two huge French fashion companies are banning size 0 models.

Photo: Pacific Press/Getty Images

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The fashion world has, and always has had, a body-image problem. Unrealistic beauty and body expectations are peddled in ads, in stores, and, of course, on the runway. While this has been a subject of discussion in the United States, other countries have actually taken decisive action: In 2012, Israel passed a law that regulates the body mass indexes of models and forces brands to disclose whether ad images have been retouched. In 2015, France adopted a similar law.

Today, France’s two leading luxury conglomerates, Kering and LVMH, announced they are taking things one step further by setting up a charter that bans size 0 models from being cast in shows and campaigns. The charter also stands to protect models against mistreatment and abuse by prohibiting the hiring of models under the age of 16 and not allowing those between the ages of 16 to 18 to work overnight jobs. In a statement announcing the new measure, Kering CEO Francois-Henri Pinault said he hopes “to inspire the entire industry to follow suit, thus making a real difference in the working conditions of fashion models industry-wide.”

While these two giant companies (which include Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Céline, Marc Jacobs, Fendi, Saint Laurent, Gucci, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, and Balenciaga in their combined portfolios) have the ability to make a serious impact on the fashion world, discriminating against women who wear a size 0 is decidedly not the answer.

“While I don’t think that thin-shaming is as serious an issue as fat-shaming by any stretch, I find it disturbing that a shape/size would be ‘banned,’” Kelsey Osgood, author of How to Disappear Completely: On Modern Anorexia, tells Racked. “Much as it galls some people, there are actually people out there who are size 0s. The question that arises is, where do the lines get drawn, and who draws them? What if someone is naturally a size 10, let’s say, and starves herself to maintain a size 6. Do we ban her? It seems a pretty simplistic and yet draconian way to deal with the issue. I suspect there are better ways agencies and designers could ensure the models they hire are healthy.”

The industry’s beauty standards reward women who are thin (and also young and white). This is something those in power — designers, editors, casting directors, marketing executives — need to reckon with, without placing the blame on women who wear a particular size. Brands should be encouraged to hire models of all sizes (and ages and colors), not told to exclude those who were born a certain way.