Diane von Furstenberg, President of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) has issued new guidelines, aimed at keeping fashion models healthy and preventing their suffering from any kind of eating disorders.

The controversy over some models reportedly remaining undernourished or maintaining medically dangerous Body Mass Index (BMI) scores has plagued the fashion industry for quite some time now. In an effort, therefore, to banish that spectre, particularly with the 2012 New York Fashion Week coming up, the CFDA has released Health Imitative Guidelines.

According to these, it is recommended that every model be at least 16 years old on the day of a show and models younger than 18 not work for fittings past midnight.

Fashion models, generally, tend to be a high-risk group of individuals prone to suffering from eating disorders. A study by Jennifer B. Brenner and Joseph C. Cunningham, psychologists at Brandeis University, there is enormous pressure on models to be extremely thin. Their research revealed that approximately 73 percent of female models maintain body weights below limits recommended by dieticians and health experts.

The high-pressure fashion industry coerces several female models into developing hazardous ways of controlling their weight; these include excessive dieting, starvation, excessive exercise, self-induced vomiting and/or the use of drugs to decrease caloric intake.

In the past, instances like the death of Uruguayan model Luisel Ramos, minutes after appearing in the Madrid Fashion Week, from heart failure as a result of fasting for days; and that of Brazilian Ana Carolina Reston, due to complications arising from anorexia, have turned the pressure up on the industry.

(Designers) share a responsibility to protect women, and very young girls in particular, within the business, sending the message that beauty is health. While some models are naturally tall and thin and their appearance is a result of many factors, including genetics, youth, nutritional food, and exercise, other models have or develop eating disorders, said von Furstenberg.

Although we cannot fully assume responsibility for an issue that is as complex as eating disorders and that occurs in many walks of life, the fashion industry can begin a campaign of awareness and create an atmosphere that supports the well-being of these young women. Working in partnership with the fashion industry, medical experts, nutritionists, and fitness trainers, the CFDA formed a committee to propose a series of positive steps designed to promote wellness and a healthier working environment, she added.

A number of modeling agencies, including DNA, Elite, Ford, IMG, Marilyn, New York Models and Next, have agreed to follow the new guidelines and not send any models below the age of 16.

CFDA's Recommendations Include:

  • Educate the industry to identify early warning signs an individual is at risk of developing an eating disorder.
  • Models identified as having an eating disorder should be required to seek professional help and models receiving professional help for an eating disorder should not continue modeling without that professional's approval.
  • Develop workshops for the industry (including designers, agents, editors and models and their families) on the nature of eating disorders and how they arise, may be identified and treated, as well as complications if those are left untreated.
  • Support the well-being of younger individuals by not hiring models under the age of 16 for runway shows; not allowing models under the age of 18 to work past midnight at fittings or shoots; and providing regular breaks and rest. Supply healthy meals, snacks and water backstage and at shoots and provide nutrition and fitness education.