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Page last updated at 08:51 GMT, Friday, 12 September 2008 09:51 UK

Health check on London Fashion Week

Jerry Thomas
The Politics Show

London Fashion Week is a showcase for the best of British designers as they strive to consolidate London's position alongside Paris, Milan and New York as a global player. But is it in a healthy state?

Model line-up
London Fashion Week... showcase for the best of British designers

It is the acme of chic. Celebrities line the catwalk - the serried ranks of the paparazzi illuminate the temples of fashion with their flashbulbs as some of the most beautiful women in the world sashay down the catwalk.

So far -so 'mwah darling!'

But beneath the glamorous veneer of the multi billion dollar industry there is an ongoing health issue that questions the very ethics of the industry.

The row over "size zero" models is not new.

'Size zero' debate

For years, a debate has raged over the health concerns of models, responding to industry pressure, who allegedly starve themselves to conform to a size zero which is seen as a near optimum size to display their designs to maximum effect.

But as the models line up for the start of London fashion week the row has reignited.

The bulk of funding for Fashion Week comes from the London Development Agency, keen to realise the commercial benefits of the shows.

However notwithstanding the financial benefits the LDA asked that measures be introduced to safeguard models heath.

Measuring waist
Being too thin can be dangerous for health

Recent high profile cases of models suffering - most notably that of teenage model Eliana Ramos who died after undertaking an extreme diet - served to alert the industry.

Health check U-turn

The Model Health Inquiry set up last year proposed that models take a health check with a resultant certificate but last month the British Fashion Council performed a U-turn, abandoning the scheme, claiming that it was impractical.

This has led in turn to calls for the funding, which is set to run for the next two years, to be curtailed. London Assembly Liberal Democrat member with responsibility for culture and tourism, Dee Doocey, is concerned.

"I think that once again the Fashion Council is trying to put profit ahead of the health of young Londoners. I think that's totally unacceptable," she insists.

Funding challenged

Boris Johnson
Mayor challenged over funding for London Fashion Week

At Mayor's Question Time at the London assembly this week, Doocey challenged the Mayor over the funding of London Fashion Week, eliciting this response from Boris Johnson.

"I have to think about the economics of the London fashion industry and our leading role in the world.

"I have to balance that against any benefits in health that we might achieve by these certificates," he said.

However the mayor went to say: "If you can persuade me that these certificates really are going to protect models from harm and they really are going to protect the health of young women in this industry, then I'll have a look at it."

As yet, there is no date in the Mayors date in the diary for Boris to meet with Ms. Doocey.

That is the Politics Show for London, with Jon Sopel and Justin Rowlatt on Sunday 14 September 2008 at 1200 BST on BBC One.

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