Fashion models in France will need to provide medical certificates proving they are healthy in order to work, after a new law was introduced banning those considered to be excessively thin.
A further measure, to come into force on October 1, will require magazines, adverts and websites to mark images in which a model’s appearance has been manipulated with the words photographie retouchée (retouched photograph).
Doctors are urged to pay special attention to the model’s body mass index (BMI), a calculation taking into account age, height and weight. However, unlike similar legislation passed in Italy and Spain, models will not have to reach a minimum BMI.
Under World Health Organisation guidelines, an adult with a BMI below 18.5 is considered underweight, 18 malnourished, and 17 severely malnourished. The average model measuring 1.75m (5ft 9in) and weighing 50kg (7st 12lb) has a BMI of 16.
Announcing the introduction of the new rules on Friday, France’s health minister said they were aimed at preventing anorexia by stopping the promotion of inaccessible ideals of beauty.
“Exposing young people to normative and unrealistic images of bodies leads to a sense of self-depreciation and poor self-esteem that can impact health-related behaviour,” health and social affairs minister Marisol Touraine said.
Given Paris’s iconic role in the fashion industry, the measures – passed in 2015 but only just coming into effect – are likely to have a symbolic impact around the world.
The proposals had originally suggested a minimum BMI for models but, following an outcry from fashion executives and modelling agencies, this was ditched in favour of allowing doctors to decide whether a model is too thin.
Agencies who use models without valid medical certificates will face a fine of €75,000 and staff face up to six months in prison. Failing to flag-up retouched images will incur a fine of €37,500, or up to 30% of the amount spent on the advert.