Italy’s fashion industry today signed a code of conduct aimed at fighting anorexia among women and the vogue for stick-thin models.
The self-regulatory code, drawn up with the Italian government, requires models to show medical proof they do not suffer from eating disorders, bans models younger than 16 and calls for a commitment to add larger sizes to fashion collections.
It also aims to redefine feminine beauty, and to re-evaluate “a healthy, sunny, generous, Mediterranean model of beauty”.
“It is a contribution that Italian fashion can give about different aesthetic standards that are not about a thin, very thin, sometimes sick bodies,” Youth Policy and Sports Minister Giovanna Melandri told a news conference in Rome.
“There’s a line between a thin girl and a sick one that is often crossed. Italy, with this manifesto, is committed to recognise this boundary and not cross it.”
The code, signed by Melandri and Mario Boselli, president of the Italian Fashion Chamber, is destined for stylists, model agencies, make-up artists and other fashion operators.
The world of high fashion and modelling has long been targeted by critics who say it encourages women and girls to emulate skinny models.
The death last month of a 21-year-old Brazilian model helped increase the public’s awareness of the problem.
Ana Carolina Reston, who modelled in China, Turkey, Mexico and Japan, died on November 14 at a hospital in Sao Paulo. The 5-foot-8 inch model weighed six stone and four pounds at the time of her death.
Doctors and psychologists treating patients with anorexia nervosa, a disorder characterised by an abnormal fear of becoming obese, praised the new Italian code, saying it would help redefine beauty standards.
“One of the biggest risks is the input that we get from fashion, because a thin model becomes an icon to emulate,” said Simona Ciampoli, a psychotherapist who treats anorexic people in a rehabilitation centre in Chieti, central Italy.
“The message that we get bombarded with is that you are important and successful as long as you are thin, but these women do not represent the real ones. The majority of normal and healthy women are not like that,” Ciampoli said.
In September, Madrid’s Fashion Week banned models with a body mass index of less than 18.
Body mass index is a calculation doctors normally apply to study obesity, and anyone with an index below 18.5 is considered underweight.