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France Regulates Fashion’s Two Biggest Faux Pas

Curators’ Corner

France Regulates Fashion’s Two Biggest Faux Pas

In December, France banned the fashion industry from employing super-thin models and demanded that digitally altered photos be labeled as such.

Just three months after Victoria Beckham took the heat for her ultra-skinny models at New York Fashion Week, France took bold new measures to make the exploitation of too-thin models illegal.

For years, the fashion industry has been criticized for its glorification of excessively lanky body types that, charities argue, sell “thinspiration” more so than clothing. But now, through laws that regulate the health of models and mandate the disclosure of digitally altered photos, one of the world’s fashion capitals is making a statement.

Under France’s new laws, models’ wellbeing — as determined by weight, body shape, and age — will need a medical professional’s stamp of approval before they’re allowed to walk. Employers who fail to confirm their models’ certificates of health will not only be fined more than $80,000, but could also be imprisoned for up to six months. Furthermore, any photos that have been digitally altered to make models appear thinner or larger must state that they have been retouched.

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Needless to say, some fashion industry leaders have been less than enthusiastic about the changes.

“The power is in the hands of designers, photographers and editors,” Isabelle Saint-Félix, head of France’s model agency union, told Women’s Wear Daily. “They’re the ones who make dresses in size 34 or 36, who decide to shoot or feature them. Modelling agencies respond to the demand of advertisers, designers and photographers. One asks models to fit in a dress — not the opposite. I would like everyone to sit around a table and say that the time of models who are too thin is over.”

Other critics argue that the law, which only measures a model’s body mass index at the time they were hired, is futile.

“How will it work?” asks Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani. “You can always say: ‘She was 10 pounds more when she was booked.’”

Meanwhile, some fashion agencies concede that increasing the sample sizes of models across the board would be “kinder” and “fairer.”

Photographers — many of whom have also come under fire for Photoshopping — will face new challenges as they preserve their artistic concepts from photo shoot to print.

“The problem doesn’t lie on whether people can retouch or not retouch; the problem lies on our understanding of what’s an image,” British photographer Nick Knight told Women’s Wear Daily. “There is no reality in photography, there’s never been any reality in photography – photography has always been about a very subjective opinion of the world around it and the more subjective it is, the more we like it. We don’t want photographers to be machines; we want them to be people with artistic visions and therefore can tell us how they see the world, not how their camera sees the world.”

What do you think France’s new laws mean for the future of fashion? Share your stance in the comments below.

(Photos via Indigital)