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France Passes Law Banning 'Excessively Thin' Models

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Photographed by Fernanda Silva
In the year when a number of models have been bravely outspoken about the grave pressures they're under to maintain their weight to unrealistic standards, the French government has finally passed a law stipulating that models working in France must have a medical certificate affirming that they are fit to work, in the hope of banning the use of "excessively thin" models. The law also decrees that digitally manipulated images - specifically those which show a model with an altered silhouette – must be labelled to indicate that they've been "touched up".

Models will now be assessed by a doctor who will make an evaluation based on weight, age, and body shape to determine their overall health and companies will be forbidden from employing any model not in possession of such a certificate. Any business that employs a model who does not have the certificate could be fined over £50,000 and individuals responsible sentenced to prison for up to half a year.

In light of this new law, many French model agencies are less than impressed and have voiced their complaints. Isabelle Saint-Félix, the general secretary of Synam, France’s union of model agencies, told WWD: “It’s scandalous. It’s very French. [However, France is not the first country to legislate on underweight models. Italy, Spain and Israel have all passed similar laws]. If there’s one profession where you need to think international, it’s modelling. There’s no reason to have a different system for different countries. The power is in the hands of designers, photographers and editors. They’re the ones who make dresses in size 34 or 36, who decide to shoot or feature them.”

Saint-Félix continued: “Modelling agencies respond to the demand of advertisers, designers and photographers. One asks models to fit in a dress — not the opposite. I would like everyone to sit around a table and say that the time of models who are too thin is over.” Simon Gensowski, a French stylist agreed, stating: “I think this law goes into the wrong direction. Rather than body-shaming women with eating disorders, it would have been wise to reconsider current sample sizes.”

As hopeful as this decision is to protect the physical and mental health of young, vulnerable girls, it is certainly true that the problem runs far deeper in fashion and this may only be a plaster for a far bigger wound. Would you like to see the UK follow France's lead?
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