LVMH and Kering Ban Ultrathin Models

By Matthew Dalton Features Dow Jones Newswires

The world's two largest luxury fashion conglomerates Wednesday announced a code of conduct to protect models from mistreatment, responding to a history of abuse, health problems and extreme dieting that models have long endured to land on catwalks and in the pages of glossy magazines.

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The conglomerates, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Kering Co., and others in the fashion industry are facing pressure on the issue from new legislation around the world and increasingly vocal complaints from models themselves. Critics say the fashion industry's use of ultrathin models idealizes unhealthy body weights and encourages eating disorders, particularly among teenage girls and young women.

Under the new code, LVMH and Kering brands are requiring models to furnish a medical certificate obtained in the previous six months "attesting to their good health and ability to work." They will no longer seek models for the smallest clothing sizes for their casting calls. Their brands will restrict how they use younger models, including a ban on portraying models under the age of 16 as adults. The code says brands must ensure that modeling agencies pay models on time.

LVMH is the world's largest luxury conglomerate, with a portfolio of brands including Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs. Kering's main brands are Gucci, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga. The brands are applying the code -- titled "The Charter On the Working Relations With Fashion Models and Their Well-Being" -- during the current round of fashion week shows, which begin Thursday in New York.

Advocates for models applauded the move but said the charter's enforcement provisions should be strengthened.

"The charter is an important step toward moving the industry in the right direction," said Sara Ziff, a former model and founder of the Model Alliance, a nonprofit that advocates for models. "That said, we look to Kering and LVMH to back up this action by evaluating enforcement of the policy and identifying additional improvements to promote meaningful change."

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Jurisdictions around the world have been moving to regulate the fashion industry's use of models. In France, one of the fashion industry's global capitals, legislation came into force this year that requires models to furnish a medical certificate, less than two years old, declaring that they are healthy enough to work.

The Italian fashion industry requires models to provide a doctor's note testifying to their good health. But experts say the rule failed to cut down on the worst abuses.

"We didn't see a sea change -- but it was a very limited regulation," said Susan Scafidi, director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School in New York. "It wasn't the kind of comprehensive statement we're seeing now."

One of the toughest moves came from the Spanish fashion industry, which in 2006 banned models with a body-mass index -- a ratio of a person's height to weight -- lower than 18, the level at which the World Health Organization considers a person to be malnourished. Israel in 2012 took a similar step, setting the cutoff at a BMI of 18.5.

Ms. Scafidi said a strict cutoff at a particular BMI isn't the solution.

"BMI is a pretty blunt instrument," Ms. Scafidi said. "Some people are indeed naturally thin, particularly as teenagers."

Instead, the rules announced by LVMH and Kering forbid the brands from seeking models in the smallest clothing size: for women, a French size 32, or 0 in the U.S., and for men, 42 French size, or U.S. size 32.

Ms. Scafidi said that provision will be difficult to implement. ""What does size 0 mean?" she said. "Size 0 varies from brand to brand."

Write to Matthew Dalton at Matthew.Dalton@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 06, 2017 15:08 ET (19:08 GMT)