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Thin still in on catwalk, with dos and don’ts

New York, Jan. 13 (Reuters): The organisers of New York’s fashion shows yesterday issued guidelines to tackle the problem of too-skinny models but stopped well short of banning them from the catwalks as fashion houses have done in Milan.

The Council of Fashion Designers of America, or CFDA, recommended models with eating disorders seek treatment, young models work limited hours, healthy food be supplied backstage and smoking and alcohol be banned.

The council, which organises the semi-annual fashion weeks in New York, said its guidelines were “about awareness and education, not policing”. “Therefore, the committee is not recommending that models get a doctor’s physical examination to assess their health or body-mass index to be permitted to work,” it said in a statement.

“Eating disorders are emotional disorders that have psychological, behavioural, social and physical manifestations, of which body weight is only one.”

The fashion world has been debating the issue, with many designers and models shrugging off concerns that ultra-thin models encourage eating disorders in girls and young women.

New York’s next fashion week begins on February 2.

“I think the new CFDA guidelines are fantastic,” Katie Ford, chief executive of Ford Modeling Agency, said. “I think just discussing it creates a lot of awareness for designers and all people who are watching models and I think it’s a good thing.”

But the National Eating Disorders Association urged the fashion world to go further.

“Simply making a suggestion is a band-aid on a much larger wound. Our concern is, who is going to monitor this programme' What are the next steps'” said Lynn Grefe, head of the association.

“The fashion industry does not cause eating disorders, but to a young girl predisposed to an eating disorder, these images are like handing them a loaded gun,” she said.

Last month Milan fashion houses formally barred ultra-skinny and under-age models from its shows, banning models under 16 or with a body mass index of less than 18.5.

Body mass index is the ratio of weight to the square of height — so that a 5 foot 8 inch model who weighed less than 55.4 kg would be barred.

Milan remains the only city of the four world centres of fashion — the others being New York, London and Paris — to enact an outright ban.

Mario Boselli, head of the Italian National Chamber of Fashion, has said he plans to meet with other industry leaders later this month to press the issue.

Didier Grumbach, the president of France’s Chambre Syndicale who oversees Paris’s Fashion Week, has said he does not think regulation is the answer to the problem of anorexia and has called the rules “a false remedy”.

Spain barred models below a certain weight from a September show in Madrid, and Britain’s culture minister called for “stick-thin” models to be banned during London Fashion Week.

Brazil has launched a ca-mpaign to ban under-age, underweight models in response to the death of a Brazilian model from complications due to anorexia.

But designer Karl Lagerfeld has said overweight people need more treatment than underweight ones, and Giorgio Armani has blamed stylists and the media for the fashion industry’s obsession with ultra-thin women.

Nearly 10 million US girls and women suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia, the NEDA said.

The CFDA, whose president is designer Diane von Furstenberg, said designers “share a responsibility to protect women, and very young girls in particular, within the business, sending the message that beauty is health”.

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