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Last Updated: Friday, 14 September 2007, 14:19 GMT 15:19 UK
Models 'should show health proof'
Models at London Fashion Week
London Fashion Week is a prestigious event for fashion fans
London Fashion Week models should be asked to prove they do not suffer eating disorders, a report says.

The Model Health Inquiry did not recommend banning size zero girls from the catwalk, although it did repeat its call for models under 16 to be banned.

It also said models should provide "good health" certificates from doctors who specialise in eating disorders.

The British Fashion Council, which set up the inquiry, said it would consider the 14 non-binding recommendations.

The report was done to tackle health issues among London Fashion Week models.

During the investigation, evidence of the vulnerability of women in the modelling profession was startling and models are at high risk of eating disorders
Baroness Kingsmill

These certificates - paid for by the models - would then have to be checked by agencies before the models could be taken on their books, the inquiry said.

In its final report the inquiry reiterated its earlier calls for under-16s to be banned from the catwalks during London Fashion Week.

The British Fashion Council has already written this condition into the contracts of designers showing at the event, which launches on Saturday.

The report says models aged 16 to 18 should have chaperones "where appropriate" and people working with models aged under 16 should be subjected to Criminal Record Bureau checks.

'Startling' evidence

Model Health Inquiry chairman Baroness Kingsmill said: "During the investigation, evidence of the vulnerability of women in the modelling profession was startling and models are at high risk of eating disorders.

"However, there is a deep lack of knowledge about eating disorders in the fashion industry and a widespread desire amongst many of its constituents to radically improve the current situation by banning the under 16s, introducing health certification and ensuring professional standards of education and research."

However, the inquiry did not recommend a ban on girls with a body mass index of less than 18.5 from the catwalks.

Madrid Fashion Week has banned the US size zero - the equivalent of a UK size four - and uses a ratio of height to weight to calculate the healthy size for each individual.

A size zero model
Size zero has been banned by several fashion shows

The issue of model health was highlighted by a series of deaths of young models, including 21-year-old Brazilian Ana Carolina Reston, who died of a generalised infection caused by anorexia in 2006.

Hilary Riva, chief executive of the British Fashion Council (BFC), which owns and runs London Fashion Week, said: "We now have a broad range of recommendations to consider.

"Some of these have already been adopted and others will take time, and further funding, to develop. We look forward to building upon the work completed to date to bring about further positive change."

The inquiry's recommendations are not binding and it is up to the fashion industry to regulate itself.

The report's recommendations are:

  • Models under the age of 16 should be banned from the catwalks at London Fashion Week and the ban should be rigorously enforced
  • Criminal Record Bureau checks should be mandatory for those working with models below the age of 16
  • From September 2008 models participating in London Fashion Week should provide a medical certificate attesting their good health from doctors with expertise in recognising eating disorders
  • Models participating in London Fashion Week must be engaged through UK-based model agencies in order to ensure passport and medical checks are effectively enforced
  • A models' health education and awareness programme should be established as a matter of urgency
  • Establishing a healthy backstage environment at this September's London Fashion Week is a priority, with demonstrably drug-free venues and good quality food
  • Establishing a self-funded representative body for the modelling profession
  • Industry consideration of a voluntary code governing the use of digital manipulation
  • The BFC should actively set out to establish partnerships with equivalent organisations in other international fashion centres in order to achieve best practice in a global industry
  • The BFC should work with the Association of Model Agents to develop minimum requirements and best practice standards for agencies booking models
  • Funding must be made available for a rigorous scientific study into the prevalence of eating disorders among fashion models
  • A detailed investigation should be carried out into the working conditions of the models along the lines of the research being carried out by the Work Foundation into 21st Century employment
  • Ministers and BFC sponsors should review the level of financial support for the BFC as a matter of urgency, to allow it to sustain the wider role proposed for it in this report
  • A permanent model health panel should be established to monitor the industry's response to this inquiry's recommendations and to make new proposals as necessary

    Young models backstage at a catwalk show

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