Vogue Editor Defends Use Of ‘Extremely Skinny’ Models And Claims They Don’t Cause Eating Disorders

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The editor of British Vogue has said she “absolutely strongly believes” size zero models are not the “tipping point” that give young girls body image issues.

Alexandra Shulman said it would be “extremely unfair” for the fashion industry to stop using extremely skinny models just because it may cause distress to those struggling with eating disorders.

Her comments come ahead of a parliamentary meeting tomorrow which will look at the possibility of creating new laws to protect models.

British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman attends the British Fashion Awards 2015 on 23 November

“I think it’s extremely unfair to think that a model who is extremely skinny should not be on the catwalk, because if somebody will attach their own feelings about their own self-image, possibly the problems they’ve got with an eating disorder or something, to that girl,” she said.

“I do think that it’s absolutely unacceptable to put a girl who is herself suffering from such things on the catwalk.

“It’s very easy to say that a skinny model is responsible for encouraging young women to feel bad about themselves, but I absolutely strongly believe that is not the case.

“None of us probably feel that great about how we look, the question is when does that feeling of dissatisfaction turn into something that is really harmful. The point I’m making is that in the main it’s not the generality of looking at a model that is that tipping point.”

Shulman also added any legislation on this issue would be “completely unworkable”.

“I can’t think of anything more degrading and more appalling for girls who are models than being measured and weighed like they’re a kind of heifer,” she said, – overlooking the fact that models are already measured constantly at fittings and even by their agencies.

Despite Shulman’s comments, calls for a new law to protect models from the pressure to lose weight and become dangerously thin will be debated in parliament after a successful petition campaign by model Rosie Nelson.

The 23-year-old, who was told to slim “down to the bone” to work in the fashion industry, has raised more than 100,000 signatures on her petition, which will be presented to David Cameron in Downing Street tomorrow.

Model Rosie Nelson

“When I walked into one of the UK’s biggest model agencies last year they told me I ticked all the boxes except one – I needed to lose weight,” she explained on the petition page.

“So I did. Four months later I lost nearly a stone, two inches off my hips.

“When I returned to the same agency they told me to lose more weight, they wanted me ‘down to the bone’.

Nelson will give evidence later in the day to a separate parliamentary inquiry into the use of under-age and underweight models in the British fashion industry, held by the all-party parliamentary group on body image chaired by the Conservative MP Caroline Nokes.

However, there is one key point on which Nelson and Noakes views differ and that is the nature of the law that needs to be implemented regarding the weight of models.

Noakes is campaigning for a law banning models with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of under 18 from the catwalk, but Nelson doesn’t believe a minimum BMI restriction is the answer.

“I don’t think BMI is necessarily the best way to judge someone’s health,” Nelson said.

“I have a BMI of 17.5 which deems me as underweight, but I know I am healthy and when I look in the mirror I am proud of who I see.

“I think the best way to judge a model’s health is by going to the doctor and having regular health checks.

“If a law was brought in that required models to have health checks every three to six months then we would see a huge change in the modelling industry within the first year.”

The British Fashion Council does not enforce a minimum BMI, as it believes it is an inaccurate measure for young women. Instead, the organisation says it has “a focus on looking after models [and] encourages health and wellbeing with healthy food and drink provided backstage at shows”.

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