Fashion Law: “Hallelujah!” Israel Bans Underweight Models From Shows, Advertisements etc.

As a fashion model turned fashion lawyer with a good number of friends who still model, the news of Israel’s ban against underweight models is music to my ears.

Clearly the industry is cleaning house from Brazil to Spain and now Israel. We are also seeing fashion models in New York arm themselves with the law as they prepare to fight an industry that, to put it nicely, trample on their rights daily. Ex-model Sara Ziff leads the way with the establishment of the Model Alliance Movement. Ziff has teamed up with my colleague Susan Scafidi and Fordham Law School as well as the CFDA in taking the fight to the industry as well as educating models on their rights.

I look forward to connecting with The Model Alliance, among others, this September during Fashion Week, to be a part of the solution.

Read the story on Israel’s ban below, watch The Model Alliance movement campaign and read a short excerpt of Sara Ziff’s message on why she founded The Model Alliance below.

The Model Alliance Video Campaign from The Model Alliance on Vimeo.

Israel Bans Underweight Models From Fashion Shows, Commercials and Ads

After two anorexic Latin American models died in 2006, countries such as Italy, Spain and India began banning underweight models from the fashioncatwalks. Now Israeli lawmakers have banned underweight models from runway shows and commercials, to hopefully reduce eating disorders and promote a healthy body image in their country.

A new law passed this weeks requires that male and female models in Israel must have a body mass index (or BMI, a measure of weight proportionate to height) of no less than 18.5 — a standard used by the World Health Organization — or a note from a doctor saying they are not underweight before they can be hired for a modeling job.

For instance, a 6-foot-tall model must weigh no less than 136.5 pounds. The legislation also bans use of models who “look underweight,” and will force creators of ads must disclose whether they used Photoshop or graphic programs to manipulate images to make the models look skinnier. . .” –THR, Fash Track

Sara Ziff’s Message.
For too long, there has been a myopic disregard for the modeling industry’s systemic abuses of its workforce. While I have been very fortunate in my modeling career, I have also seen firsthand how the industry often disregards child labor law, lacks financial transparency, encourages eating disorders, and blindly tolerates sexual abuse in the workplace. The lucrative careers of high-profile supermodels misrepresent the reality for most working models, who are young, mostly female, and uniquely vulnerable.

For this reason, I have established the Model Alliance, a not-for-profit organization, with the assistance of fellow models and the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School. Our goal is to work with progressive modeling agencies to give models in the U.S. a voice in their workplace and organize to improve their basic working conditions in what is now an almost entirely unregulated industry. How the industry treats its models influences the ideal presented in the magazines, and these images have a powerful, far-reaching effect on women in general.

Lack of financial transparency is a significant problem. Last year, three models brought a lawsuit against their New York agency Next for allegedly stealing $750,000 of their earnings. Like the plaintiffs, I also left an agency after becoming increasingly wary of their opaque bookkeeping, and I was paid the outstanding earnings owed to me by that agency only after I consulted a lawyer and threatened legal action. As a model, simply getting paid can be a major issue, and, of the models who achieve a coveted spot walking in New York fashion week, many in fact are never paid at all, instead working for free or for “trade,” meaning just clothes. (Note it’s not that models “get to keep the clothes” as is commonly thought.) Many young models also become crippled by debt to agencies that charge myriad of unexplained expenses and hold significant power over a model’s security as the sponsor for a model’s work visa.

While the majority of people working in fashion act professionally, sexual abuse is also a problem. Consider just the last few years: in 2008, fashion designer Anand Jon was found guilty of rape and multiple counts assault of aspiring models, who ranged from 14 to 21 years old. Last year, models began to speak out in numbers against the photographer Terry Richardson for his practice of putting models on the spot to disrobe on castings, soliciting sex from them, and documenting these exploits, and in November 2010, an aspiring male model sued a noted stylist for alleged sexual harassment. What is worse, in an industry that relies on kids working in unchaperoned situations, often far from home, the incentive to say nothing in order to keep your job creates an environment of coercion that is not only unconscionable, but also illegal. .  .” The Model Alliance has the full introductory note

Hallelujah, really, to all of the movement on the Fashion model legal side of things.


Photocredit: images/Creative Commons License