Gaining weight will be a popular resolution for Israel’s skinny models in 2013. As of January 1, models are required to show that they’ve maintained a body-mass index of at least 18.5 over the previous three months before posing for photos or walking runways.
The height/weight proportion is considered the minimum for a healthy individual. What does that look like? At 5’ 10” and 130 pounds, Tyra Banks’ BMI was 18.7 when she modelled for the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1997.
The law, which was passed in March 2012, also calls for photography to carry disclaimers when it has been digitally manipulated to make models appear thinner.
It’s trailblazing legislation, going further than any other country in the world to ensure fashion takes responsibility for the health of its models. The only downside is that Israel is no fashion capitol. The country has just 300 working models.
However, Israel’s example is just part of a growing backlash against the fashion industry’s impossible standards. For example, to qualify for fashion week shows in Madrid or Milan, models must maintain a BMI above 18 and 18.5 respectively. In the U.S., the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) distributes guidelines to its members, including a call to ban models who are under 16 from the runway.
Last May, Vogue pledged not to work with models under the age of 16 in all 19 of its international editions. The magazine also committed to not using models who appear to have an eating disorder.
In 2009, British Vogue’s editor Alexandra Shulman wrote to leading designers, requesting they increase the sample size of their designs to allow for a wider range of models. However, the plea fell on deaf ears.
Perhaps the attention Israel is attracting for its forward-thinking legislation will help the fashion industry evolve towards a less drastic ideal. But for an industry that is all about the next big thing, this is one area where it has been painfully slow to change.