LVMH and Kering's New Initiative Doesn't Protect Models The Way It Claims

LVMH and Kering's New Initiative Doesn't Protect Models The Way It Claims

While the new initiative seems like a step in the right direction, don't be fooled: banning a size zero does not equate to healthier working standards for models.

While the new initiative seems like a step in the right direction, don't be fooled: banning a size zero does not equate to healthier working standards for models.

Text: Taylor Aube

Today, fashion conglomerates LVMH and Kering announced a charter that implements age restrictions on photo shoots along with banning a US Size 0 from their casting requirements. As the Business of Fashion initially reported, the charter, which will see Kering and LVMH "stop hiring excessively thin models on catwalks worldwide," forbids the hiring of girls under the age of 16 to pose as adult models for shows or shoots.

The announcement comes just 24 hours after the New York Times published interviews with 12 models who spoke out about diversity, racism and extreme pressure from the industry. The stories shared are from models who developed eating disorders to meet industry standards, who were constantly told they were too big, too black, or simply not good enough. It's just the latest in a sea of complaints against the fashion industry's treatment of models; in February, casting director James Scully posted a horrifying report about underage models being locked in a dark stairwell for three hours.

So true to my promise at #bofvoices that I would be a voice for any models, agents or all who see things wrong with this business I'm disappointed to come to Paris and hear that the usual suspects are up to the same tricks. I was very disturbed to hear from a number of girls this morning that yesterday at the Balenciaga casting Madia & Rami (serial abusers) held a casting in which they made over 150 girls wait in a stairwell told them they would have to stay over 3 hours to be seen and not to leave. In their usual fashion they shut the door went to lunch and turned off the lights, to the stairs leaving every girl with only the lights of their phones to see. Not only was this sadistic and cruel it was dangerous and left more than a few of the girls I spoke with traumatized. Most of the girls have asked to have their options for Balenciaga cancelled as well as Hermes and Ellie Saab who they also cast for because they refuse to be treated like animals. Balenciaga part of Kering it is a public company and these houses need to know what the people they hire are doing on their behalf before a well deserved law suit comes their way. On top of that I have heard from several agents, some of whom are black that they have received mandate from Lanvin that they do not want to be presented with women of color. And another big house is trying to sneak 15 year olds into paris! It's inconceivable to me that people have no regard for human decency or the lives and feelings of these girls, especially when too too many of these models are under the age of 18 and clearly not equipped to be here but god forbid well sacrifice anything or anyone for an exclusive right? If this behavior continues it's gonna be a long cold week in paris. Please keep sharing your stories with me and I will continue to to share them for you. It seems to be the only way we can force change and give the power back to you models and agents where it rightfully belongs. And I encourage any and all to share this post #watchthisspace

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This charter commits to banning models below size 34 for women and size 44 for men in French measurements. In addition, it sets strict requirements to protect young models requiring brands to have a psychologist/therapist on set, school attendance guidelines, curfew hours, and more.

While these changes put in place to protect minors are much needed in the fashion industry, the banning of a specific size raises a lot of concerns. “The well-being of models” as LVHM and Kering phrase it, should instead focus on promoting being healthy: physical health, eating healthy, exercising and mental health.

It can be argued that these issues start within modeling agencies and casting agencies who impose strict ideals on young innocent models, many of whom are pulled into the industry at the incredibly tender ages of 13 or 14. Casting directors quite literally tell these models not to eat, and to only drink water for 24 hours before shows or fittings (perhaps the name Ulrikke Hoyer rings a bell?).

Certainly, a lot of reform is needed in the industry. The mistreatment of models is an issue in an of itself; but the new initiative, claiming to help models (and perhaps it truly is well-intentioned) still is telling other people what to do with their bodies, rather than focusing on someone's natural body type and letting them be healthy. How can we celebrate body diversity by banning sizes? The fashion industry should instead have a strict focus on the mental and physical health of its models. It is also noteworthy that the official LVHM press release does not make any mention of weight requirements—but only waist size.

I just returned from Tokyo/Japan, where Louis Vuitton held a beautiful cruise show in Kyoto, I just never made it to Kyoto cause I was canceled for the show due to being ‘too big’. (I’m a size 34-36) Ashley Brokaw’s caster Alexia had said that there had been some problems during the fitting. According to her I had “a very bloated stomach”, “bloated face”, and urged me to starve myself with this statement “Ulrikke needs to drink only water for the next 24 hours”. I was shocked when I heard it. I woke up at 2am and was extremely hungry. The breakfast started at 6:30am – I had the absolute minimum. I was afraid to meet Alexia so my luck she didn’t arrive until 8am, when my plate was taken off the table. She said good morning to me and the other girls and looked at me, then down on my non-existent plate and up at me again. She was checking if I had been eating food. At 7pm my mother agent from Denmark called my to tell the sad news that Louis Vuitton had chosen to cancel me from the show without the refitting and that I was going to be sent back home. Not only did I have a belly, my face was puffy now also my back was a problem. I am glad I’m 20 years old with an elite sports background and not a 15 year old girl, who are new to this and unsure about herself, because I have no doubt that I would then have ended up very sick and scarred long into my adult life. TO READ THE FULL STORY CLICK IN MY BIO!!!!!!! #LVCruise2018 #mistreatmentofmodels #AshleyBrokaw #thefutureisfemale #sowhyeatingdisorders #youknowitstrue #shareifyoucare #jamespscully

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According to the Model Alliance, in conjunction with researches from Harvard University and Northeastern University, “in one study, 81 percent of the models surveyed reported a body mass index of less than 18.5, which is considered underweight by the World Health Organization.” As a woman who weighs 110lb, stands at 5’6’’, and can eat 1 hamburger a day without gaining weight, I am considered underweight with a BMI of 17.8. This new change doesn’t tackle actual issues of the industry such as eating disorders and unhealthy efforts to achieve certain measurements. The focus should be on the individual and not an “industry standard." I wonder if a nutritionist, doctor or therapist were in a room with a model during her fittings, how different the conversation and tone about the model’s body would be.

Banning a person’s size does nothing, but banning the ideas and values behind the issue will actually make a change. A person’s waist size does not automatically determine them unhealthy, but it does alleviate pressure from models who have to go to extremes to meet industry standards. In an industry that challenges its models to be in tip-top shape, perhaps more than psychologists are needed. Health coaches, nutritionists, even doctors should be available to make sure these hard-working models are being taken care of, and not being taken advantage of.

Standards set by the fashion oligarchy should not be determined by a person’s body measurements: they should be determined by physical and mental well-being of the model. With these new “standards,” will a size 2 become the new norm? Will women and men develop eating disorders to meet this newer standard? Should the industry be promoting a certain size—or instead, should it be promoting overall wellness of ALL of its constituents, including models, clients and consumers alike?

While these are small steps to achieving a safer and healthier working environment for models, banning a size does not ban the mentality.

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