In recent years, modeling has evolved dramatically - from the inclusion of more "plus-size" and "curvy" models to promoting all natural, non-photoshopped advertisements. The window for self-expression in modeling has never been more inclusive, and France has taken notice.
Right before the presidential election, two decrees were published protecting the health and well-being of models. These decrees promote a law stating that all models working in the European Union and the European Economic Area will have their body mass index taken into account for those over the age of 16, "particularly when its value suggests moderate or severe thinness after the age of 18, and is lower than the third percentile in French references for height and gender before that age."
Models working in the EU or European Economic Area will now be required to have medical certificates confirming their well-being and proof that they are not underweight by body mass index (BMI) standards. Although the BMI index has been wildly debated for being too generalized and not taking into account different body types, BMI standards will be considered and used for models who are older than 16 years old. (For reference, 18.5 is the cutoff between being categorized as underweight or healthy weight.) The average woman in the United States is around a size 14, and has a BMi of around 26.5, whereas the "average" runway model has a BMI of 16, a "severly thin" body mass by classification of the World Health Organization.
Not only will this law protect models, but any published photograph that has been tampered with and retouched to make a model appear thinner or thicker must be tagged with the phrase "retouched photograph." Any violation of this rule will result in a fine starting at the hefty 37,500 euros, or roughly $40,500 dollars.
France is certainly not the first to pen laws and decrees focusing on underweight models, as Israel, Italy, and Spain have passed their own legislation to ban underweight models and send them home.
Unfortunately, the head of France's modeling agency union, Isabelle Saint-Félix, spoke with Women's Wear Daily and commented that these laws are unjustly targeting French modeling agencies, and will force fashion shows or shoots to be relocated to spots outside of the country. "Modeling agencies respond to the demand of advertisers, designers, and photographers," adds Saint-Félix when speaking to Women's Wear Daily.
Although some French fashion industries feel attacked, this law is certainly for the better. No woman should feel forced or coerced into starvation for the result of a "good image." This law will protect the models themselves, encouraging them to be healthy. Hopefully, other countries will take note and pass their own legislation to a healthier, safer modeling standard.