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When you think of France, what is it that comes to mind? Is it the delicate summer days in Provence where the sun ambles through the sky as if propelled by a gentle breeze? Or is it more a ‘Hemingway’s Paris’, indulging in indulgence and soaking up the mix of bohemian atmos in the Left Bank and the sophistication on of the Right as you wander La Rive Droite?

Either way, France is iconic for its visuals, and its people are part of that. I’ve heard it said that French women spend four times as much on lingerie a year as their American counterparts, so it’s clearly a place where image on and off the streets and in and out of the sheets, means something. No wonder then, it’s a major stop on the fashion world tour.

It may come as a surprise then to learn that just days ago, France adopted a law to effectively ban excessively thin fashion models. That’s right, the country known for its tidy women in striking silhouettes smoking away on cafe’d boulevards has accepted new legislation where models who intend to work within its borders must provide a doctor’s certificate indicating they are in good overall health, and that their body mass index is appropriate for their vocation.

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Agencies who do not require and enforce these new measures could face fines up to 75,000 Euro, and even imprisonment for six months. Furthermore, there’s another provision stating that commercial photographs of models whose physical appearance has been digitally altered either thinner or larger must be accompanied by the disclaimer of ‘retouched photograph,’ and a violation of this carries with it a fine of 37,500 Euros, or even 30 percent of the ad’s budget.

The details of these new articles are to be worked on, and terms laid out pending the opinion of the French National Authority For Health, and the law regarding the photographs must be implemented no later than January 1st, 2017.

Thoughts

This is a pretty big deal, and I’m personally unsure of it all at this time. Firstly, while France, and Paris specifically, is a fashion hub, the vast majority of models who can be found there at any given time are not French natives, but are simply transient workers there to do a job and then leave, so if the same measures implemented by France aren’t adopted elsewhere as in the home countries of these models, how then can this work?

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For one, the home countries may not have the same measures of good health and acceptable BMI, and you can’t expect me to believe the French authorities are going to spend the money and resources it will take to ensure the authenticity of all documents presented. So how effective this will be may be only little.

Granted, France isn’t exactly pioneering here since Italy, and Spain have also adopted measures aimed at preventing excessively thin models one might consider unhealthy from participating in runways. Then there’s Denmark, who opted for something similar but less drastic, which is more an ethical charter agreed upon between photographers, agencies, and those who would publish the images.

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So is this some sort of European co-operative initiative like the Euro? I can’t see that really happening, given the fact that Europe as a federal superstate hasn’t resolved the most concerning issue for all those who live and travel within its borders – a unified power outlet – so I’m not lugging around half a hundredweight of adapters for every country. 

That aside, I just see this as being something that’s going to run into a lot of trouble because no doubt, there has to be some degree of case-by-case subjectivity. Coming from a family of docs I know that we aren’t all made the same and what can be normal for one isn’t for another, so what’s healthy for one isn’t for another. People of different genetics simply cannot be measured against all the same indices. Where does the line get drawn, and who is to say it gets drawn there?

I also find it interesting, always, that whereas in almost any other profession, we elevate and praise, or at least not tear down, those who are excelling, but within fashion and modeling, there’s always a bone to be picked (pun intended). Rarely do we hear about the physical trauma that must be endured by top athletes much less anyone speaking out against it, but those in the fashion industry are always hit by the same stick over and over again.

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Quite literally, a male model who chooses to be top of his craft and happy to live that way works hard to be in top shape and will often be taunted by those who think they’re unhealthy for not living and eating what they deem to be moderate. Somehow, top athletes who do the same aren’t told the same routine. I’m all for models being healthy, but I’m not sure who can say what that is in a blanket statement for everyone.

Source: Women’s Wear Daily