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Ethics in the industry: Countering excessively thin models

Steps taken in different countries to counter the use of excessively thin models.
This image shows a model in a yellow sleeveless top and fur coat. Her face is painted in blue and red and is holding a long cigarette.

Various countries have taken steps in countering, and even banning, the participation of excessively thin models in fashion shows and other areas of the fashion industry.


  • The first country to ban excessively thin models in 2006, sending shockwaves across the fashion world.
  • The Spanish Association of Fashion Designers decided to turn away underweight models who had a BMI of less than 18 at Madrid fashion week.
  • Nearly a third of models were banned from taking to the catwalk in the first year the rule was introduced. UN health experts recommend a BMI of between 18.5 and 25 for women.
  • Spain now bars excessively skinny models from being featured in Madrid fashion shows.


  • Italy soon followed in Spain’s footsteps and banned ultra-thin women from its fashion shows in Milan in a bid to tackle anorexic models.
  • Legislation insists on health certificates for models based on their BMI.
  • Other measures include a minimum age of 16 for models showcasing women’s clothing.


  • In 2012 the Israeli government passed a law banning the use of underweight models in advertising and on the catwalk.
  • The legislation requires models to provide medical proof of a healthy weight and for advertisements to state if an image has been altered to make a model appear thinner.
  • Models in Israel must have a BMI of no less than 18.5.


  • A law banning the hiring of ultra-thin models in France came into effect in May 2017.
  • Models must present a valid medical certificate proving that they are fit to work, provided by a doctor who must make a decision based on their BMI, age, and body shape.
  • Companies could be fined up to €75,000 or their bosses jailed for up to six months if they breach the law.
  • Images where a model’s appearance has been altered using photo editing software also have to be labeled as “retouched photographs.”
  • The French health ministry says the changes in legislation aim to fight eating disorders and inaccessible ideals of beauty.
  • Major French fashion houses LVMH and Kering, behind labels including Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Yves Saint Laurent, said they would stop using underweight models for their catwalk shows worldwide.


  • Although there is no official legislation, Denmark has introduced a Fashion Ethical Charter, produced by the country’s Fashion Institute and its eight largest model agencies.
  • Agencies who sign on to the charter must arrange an annual medical check for all models under the age of 25, provide healthy food at photo shoots and other events, and give their models a wage (some models are paid in clothes when they start out).

United States

  • Like Denmark, the United States has no formal legislation on underweight models but launched a health initiative in 2007 to protect those working in the fashion industry.
  • The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) requires those working in fashion to learn how to recognize the early signs of eating disorders, models with eating disorders to seek professional help and stop modeling until they get a doctor’s approval, bosses to develop workshops on eating disorders, and for healthy food to be provided at shoots and shows.
  • The charter has also introduced a minimum modeling age of 16.


Sykes, S. (June 9, 2017). Six countries taking steps to tackle super-skinny models.

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