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Contracting Our Models to Break Bread With Us

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We've written previously on body image and how to the exploitation of fashion models.

According to various press reports this month we could expect the final conclusion of committee hearings and investigations by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Body Image. This seems likely to result in the recommendation of the banning of fashion models under the age of 18.

It seems the imposition of a threshold BMI, as introduced by France, Spain, Italy and Israel, is not to be proposed. As we've discussed in our earlier blog this is no doubt because such a law would be very difficult to police. There is the issue also that BMI measures can be manipulated.

At Rose & Willard we are committed to protecting the models who work for us and are very much encouraged by public debate of this important and sensitive topic.

As mentioned previously our site features mostly non-model models, i.e. women we believe represent aspiration but to whom our customers can readily relate. It was an endeavour that wasn't well received. In response we chose to shoot our most recent SS16 campaign using a professional model.

We are now at a crossroads with regard to whether we continue with professional models or our non-model models. If we do opt for the former we have decided that we will include a non-negotiable contractual clause with the model agency which will state that the model must eat a meal and in our presence. We will not allow her to only eat a tiny morsel and/or suggest she'll eat later. The consequence of non-compliance will be that neither she nor her agency will be paid.

Yes, it's a form of nannying but we feel we have a responsibility to protect these young women from an industry which we believe can leave them exploited and puts them under pressure to starve themselves and damage their health and wellbeing.

We haven't taken this decision lightly. These are our reasons:

1. Ahead of our initial launch we undertook test shoots with some models. None of them ate anything during the day's shoots despite our protestations. One even became delirious and started talking gibberish. We had to send her home.

2. We were told on each occasion by the models that they were due to attend castings for catwalk shows and were thus 'watching their weight'. One even said that she 'couldn't afford to eat'. It's heartbreaking to hear a young woman say such a thing.

3. While we were casting for SS16 campaign, I asked every model who attended (around 12) whether they felt under pressure to lose weight. Without exception, they said yes. The reasoning had been that they would get more work if they were thinner.

4. A number of models, and other sources, have also told us that it's common for models to eat tissues ahead of castings or shoots in order to avoid having their stomachs rumble.

This is simply wrong.

We are often asked what we think the answer is. While an age threshold offers some protection we believe the industry may argue that they are being discriminated against when people under the age of 18 can work in other industries. In addition it perhaps does not protect those models who are aged 18 and older. These models can still be pressured to lose weight.

We continue to believe that industry self-regulation is the way forward. We think this can be achieved by the public applying moral pressure to fashion brands. Social media, in our opinion, is the perfect conduit. After all we have seen how swiftly the 'Are You Beach Body Ready?' protest spread. The 'Ice Bucket Challenge' is another analogy.

Social media ensures that companies cannot hide. It is this media that engender change.

We know we can't put a stop to it ourselves but it's been enormously encouraging to receive numerous messages from members of the public in support of our determination.

Hopefully now the ball will start rolling....

This February HuffPost UK Style is running a month-long focus on our Fashion For All campaign, which aims to highlight moments of colour, size, gender and age diversity and disability inclusivity in the fashion and beauty world.

We will be sharing moments of diversity at London Fashion Week with the hashtag #LFW4All and we'd like to invite you to do the same. If you'd like to blog about diversity or get involved, email us here.

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