For the first time ever, a 35-strong group of models including Iskra Lawrence, Ashley Chew and Carré Otis have written a searingly honest and much-needed open letter to the fashion industry, ahead of New York Fashion Week.
The letter is in response to a study which indicates that the greatest prevalence of eating disorders is among models.
In the letter published on National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) based in the US , the models wrote:
“As models, we care about each other’s health and wellbeing. As we look toward New York Fashion Week, we strongly urge you to prioritize health and celebrate diversity on the runway this season.
“Concerns about the fashion industry’s promotion of extreme thinness are nothing new but a recent research study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders confirms that unhealthy weight control practices are a serious problem in the industry. Too often, models are being pressured to jeopardize their health and safety as a prerequisite for employment.
“Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental health concern and survivors often suffer irreversible damage to their health. That is why we have teamed up with the Model Alliance and the National Eating Disorders Association to address this issue.
“Together, we are challenging you to make a serious commitment to promote health and diversity on the runway. Through our social media platforms, which collectively reach millions of people, we will recognize the industry leaders who step up to this challenge.
“Specifically, we will keep an eye out for diversity of race, size, age, and gender status, and we hope to see diversity within and across all of those categories.”
Published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, “Results of a Strategic Science Study to Inform Policies Targeting Extreme Thinness Standards in the Fashion Industry” was conducted to add scientific knowledge to the debate around thinness in the industry.
Of course the pressure around weight isn’t just specific to the US, London models experience the same pressures.
In an article with the Guardian last year, model Rosie Nelson - who joined the Women’s Equality Party to tackle this same issue - said: “They control your life. They’re getting you your jobs, they’re providing you with your income, and you become like a slave to it.
“The industry’s so consuming that you forget about the real world. In the real world I’m incredibly thin, but in the modelling world I’m still too big. So when they asked me to lose weight, I accepted it.”
The subject of weight restriction has long since been a controversial one. Some models say it excludes them if their bodies naturally have a low BMI, while places such as Milan and Madrid already enforce rules to protect models. France and Israel have followed suit banning underweight models.
Iskra Lawrence, one of the models who has put her name to the campaign has long since been a body positive image advocate. “When I saw my first campaign with them (lingerie brand Aerie) and I could see my unretouched body - pics with rolls / back fat I’m not gonna lie I was shocked.
“That quickly turned into joy because they made me feel good enough and knew that those “flaws” didn’t mean I wasn’t beautiful in fact showing that their models didn’t have to be “flawless” was incredibly empowering.”
The last paragraph of the letter reads: “Now more than ever, we have an opportunity to send the message that diversity is what makes us strong. We sincerely hope that all of you – from designers and editors to agents and casting directors – will collectively harness the industry’s creative power to be forward thinking, inclusive, and do the right thing.”
The full list of models includes:
Ingrid Sophie Schram