Baroness Denise Kingsmill, Chairman of the Independent Model Health Inquiry, established by the British Fashion Council to look into the health of models on the catwalks at London Fashion Week, recently published the Inquiry’s Interim Report containing outline recommendations to ensure the industry behaves responsibly and in the best interests of those models who help make a success of London Fashion Week.
The Interim Report highlights a range of potential actions emerging from the discussions and the evidence presented to the Inquiry since the Inquiry started in May this year. The Inquiry welcomes responses to the Interim Report to help inform the Final Report which will include firm recommendations and be published in September.
The full Interim Report has been published recently. The following extract highlights the recommendations:
1. To initiate and develop a model health education and awareness programme in partnership with the industry, including:
— a. Holding workshops to teach industry partners (designers, agents) how to identify and advise models with eating disorders;
— b. Establishing a healthy backstage environment and providing good quality, food;
— c. Recruiting experienced models to host peer workshops to provide practical advice to younger models;
— d. Developing an advice and support website for models, parents, agencies and casting directors, supplemented by a telephone helpline, setting out the signs and symptoms of eating disorders and where to go for expert help
— e. Seeking opportunities for international collaboration in order to achieve best practice in a global industry
2. The Panel believes there is a positive case for establishing a representative body or u nion for the modeling profession.
3. We would welcome a detailed investigation into the working conditions of models and would encourage the Work Foundation to include the modeling profession in their research programme into 21 st century employment and would hope that proper funding was provided for this.
4. Backstage environments should be demonstrably drug free and the British Fashion Council should also ensure the rigorous enforcement of no smoking backstage at London Fashion Week following the recent introduction of smokefree work environments.
5. We are not convinced that weighing models is a useful way forward; examples of this action in other countries has been ineffective and a focus on weighing models can be counterproductive.
6. The Panel would like to see a rigorous scientific study carried out into the prevalence of eating disorders among fashion models and the presence of vulnerability factors that are associated with them.
7. The Panel would welcome responses to an approach based on BMIs or codes of conduct. In particular we are interested in views on the impact of introducing guidance that models with BMIs below 18.5 should not appear during London Fashion Week.
8. The British Fashion Council has already issued advice to designers that models under 16 should not be used during London Fashion Week but the Panel believes that this should go further and that models aged below 16 should be banned from the catwalks during London Fashion Week, given the particular vulnerability of this age group and the risk of the sexual exploitation of children in requiring them to represent adult women. We would also like to see additional protection for models aged between 17 and 18, including chaperoning at shows and better support made available.
9. We believe there is scope for a campaign through informed media coverage and campaigns to encourage designers to embrace a healthier image and would welcome campaign proposals.
10. The British Fashion Council should work with the Association of Model Agents to develop minimum requirements and best practice standards for agencies booking models. Agencies would be expected to arrange medical checks including screening for eating disorders when taking a model on their books and follow up with annual checks, particularly with those trained in an understanding of eating disorders. They would also need to offer:
— Clear contracts for assignments
— Health training for staff
— Mentoring or buddy systems
— Access to a counsellor
— Systematic debriefing systems for past photoshoots
11. A formal licensing system for model agencies should be established, regulated by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and delivered in partnership with the Association of Model Agents and the British Fashion Council. Minimum requirements of achieving the licence would include medical checks and clear contracts for models and health training for staff.
12. There is a clear case for the government to examine streamlining the regulation of the industry and appointing a single authority to have responsibility for enforcement of regulation in the fashion industry. Could / should this be the British Fashion Council?
13. Therefore, we would welcome responses particularly from British Fashion Council sponsor organisations and its major funders on the availability of financing or new sources of funding for any wider role. We are also interested in views on whether the British Fashion Council’s Memorandum of Association should be amended to reflect a role that embraces support for models working during London Fashion Week.