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France leading the charge in realistic body image


France has taken a step towards creating a healthier body image in modelling by introducing new laws to tackle excessively thin models as the face of fashion. 

The new laws will see models requiring confirmation from their doctors that they are healthy, and further measures later in the year will see manipulated images in magazines stamped with the words ‘photographie retouchée’  (retouched photograph).

Fashion models
Models on the catwalk. Image courtesy of Creative Commons

An emphasis has been placed on the BMI (body mass index) of the models in confirming they are fit to work, with similar laws already in place in other areas of Europe. The difference being that although doctors will be advised to look at the individual’s BMI, a minimum number won’t be put in place like Spain or Italy have already imposed.

Freelance photographer Katie McKenna, 21, from Norwich, believes these guidelines are a step in the right direction. “I agree with everything being said by the French government however there has to be a shift in the wider market and advertisement industry for this to be enforced.”

“As a society, we have become used to seeing these thin fashion images, with manipulation or retouching, mainly without being overtly aware, so I think the wider industry needs to get on board with this new way of working for any real changes.”

Guidelines released by the World Health Organisation suggest an adult with a BMI below 18.5 is considered to be underweight and below 17 is extremely malnourished.

BMI levels. Infographic made by Hannah Ledden

Nathalie Clarkson, 21, a fashion promotion graduate from Southend agrees that this could be the start of a fresh-thinking fashion industry. “The ban is long overdue because they don’t represent real women and people’s views end up being distorted,” she says. “Hopefully the rest of the world will follow in their footsteps.”

France’s health and social affairs minister, Marisol Touraine, said the aim was to prevent anorexia and an unrealistic level of beauty ideals. “Exposing young people to unrealistic images of body image leads to a sense of poor self-esteem that can impact health-related behaviour.”

Fashion capitals of the World
Will all the fashion capitals follow in France’s footsteps? Map made by Hannah Ledden using Google Maps

Having a capital city of fashion take the first step towards a healthier presentation of body image is surely a step in the right direction for the industry as a whole. Severe punishments are also to be put in place for those who fail to follow the new standards, including six months in prison for staff who use models without the correct medical certificates.

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