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Council of Fashion Designers of America’s lame excuses for not enforcing models' health guidelines

A brief collection of excuses by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) offered during the recent NYC fashion week to explain why its guidelines in favor of models’ health lacked an enforcement provision.  My comments are in italics:

The council’s president, designer Diane von Furstenberg, said that while the industry had a responsibility to act, regulation was not the answer.  “There should be guidelines, and no enforcement,” Von Furstenberg told the forum of nutritionists, models and fashion industry insiders.

Without regulation, how will you prove that you are responsible?  Apparently, there is no enforcement because the guidelines are to remain suggestions on paper rather than be seen in practice.

“We never wanted to have regulations or mandatory requirements,” Steven Kolb, director of the designers’ council said earlier this month. “Regulation is not the best way to go.”

Make that “We never wanted to have regulations or mandatory requirements or even these lame guidelines to start with, but with all the public pressure, we have to pretend that we are concerned, too.”  Of course, regulation is not the best way to go because it will work.

“Since we are in the business of fashion, we create aspirational images and it’s important that we project health as a part of beauty,” Von Furstenberg said at a discussion on the issue held during New York’s fashion week.

Aspirational images for whom?  Ms. Von Furstenberg doesn’t tell us that the models’ adolescent-boy look is supposed to represent what the gay fashion designers aspire toward in some of their intimate partners, something the law has forced them to largely relegate to fantasy.  Besides, skinniness surely doesn’t convey health.

Designer Donna Karan said the modeling agencies bore a large responsibility in taking care of their charges. “It starts at the beginning: the family and the modeling agency,” she said. “The agency is the mother of the models.”

Yes, indeed.  Now please start acting like a mother by making sure that they eat enough and have a healthy weight.

Another designer, Tory Burch, said that any rules would be hard to enforce in the United States.

If so, then the CFDA would have set up rules to show that it is genuinely concerned about models’ health; after all, having rules that can be barely enforced is roughly similar to not having rules in the first place.  If the federal government does what the CFDA is loathe to do, we will see just how difficult enforcement is.     

Joy Bauer, a nutritionist advising the designers’ council, said looking at only body mass index oversimplified the problem.  “This issue is much more than the BMI or weight,” she said.  “There are other factors, genetics and age. Some women can have a low BMI and be healthy.  “I don’t think weighing the models is realistic. It can create even more anxiety and thus more problems,” she said.

As if models don’t weigh themselves on a regular basis!  Weighing the women will create anxiety if they have to maintain weight below a low limit, but hardly if they have to maintain weight above a limit at the threshold of medical underweight [and below the threshold of overweight]. 

Yes, genes and age are factors.  The age factor can be taken care of by using age-appropriate BMI cutoffs.  The genetic factors can be taken care of by medical examinations that reveal that models with a BMI less than the cutoff are healthy and thereby good to work with.  If indeed “some women can have a low BMI and be healthy,” then the CFDA should have no problems getting its low-BMI models medically examined to prove the point, which brings us to the following comment...       

Lynn Grefe, head of the National Eating Disorders Association, said she was disappointed by the current suggestions.  “I don’t understand why they are opposed to physical testing,” she said.

Naïve woman, they are opposed to physical testing because they know that many of their medically underweight models are not naturally as skinny and will fail a health test. (source)

During London fashion week, The British Fashion Council also took a stance similar to the CFDA, saying “We believe that regulation is neither desirable nor enforceable.  What will make a difference is the commitment of the fashion industry to change attitudes through behavior and education.”  The council said it was setting up a task force to create new guidelines for the fashion industry.

And, the guidelines will be another whitewash.