Posted on: 01/08/2013

New Year"s resolution for Israeli fashion: No anorexic models

Last week, a new law in Israel went into effect banning models with a BMI (body mass index) level below 18.5 from the catwalk as well as from photo shoots and advertising campaigns. Produced by measuring a person"s weight (in kg) against their height (in meters) squared, the Body Mass Index has become an increasingly common tool used to classify body types, with subjects classed into "underweight," "normal," "overweight" and "obese." It"s now being used by the Israeli authorities in the fight against eating disorders. According to the Jerusalem Post, "every year, some 1,500 teenagers develop an eating disorder, and 5% of those suffering from anorexia die each year." Placing the blame at the foot of the fashion industry, and an obsession with unattainable female physiques, lawmakers have responded by banning models with BMIs of below 18.5 (the minimum "normal" weight) from the runway and the media in Israel. The Israeli government joins a number of other organizations like Milan Fashion Week, Vogue and the Council of Fashion Designers of America in setting minimum BMI limits. However this is the first time that a country has set down legislation for a wholesale ban on what are viewed by some as unhealthily skinny models. Having starred in shoots for Vogue Italia, British Elle, and Harpers Bazaar, the Columbia University and Sciences-Po-educated model Yomi Abiola founded Stand up for Fashion (STUFF) in October 2012. STUFF is a global campaign promoting diversity, equality and inclusion, which aims to "transform lives through the power of fashion." According to Abiola, the move by the Israeli state is well-intentioned: "legislation certainly creates a context and framework for changes around body image to be made," she said in an email to Relaxnews. In reality, though, the problems lie much deeper as "eating disorders and female body image are beyond a number on the body mass index." "Ultimately, the step made by Israel is an effort to address an issue that transcends models and the fashion industry," adds Abiola. In 2006, the organizers of Milan Fashion Week demanded a minimum BMI of 18.5, and in the same year Madrid Fashion Week set a target BMI of 18 for all models taking part in runway shows.