It’s New York Fashion Week, and all eyes are on the models. This time, though, they are facing a new kind of scrutiny.
In 2006, Madrid’s Fashion Week made headlines for banning models with a body-mass index of less than 18.5–in other words, a 5’9″ model must weigh more than 124 pounds. The resolution followed the deaths of Uruguayan model Luisel Ramos and Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston, both from anorexia. Ramos died of a heart attack, reportedly after months of eating only lettuce and diet soda, and Ramos, from a systemic infection facilitated by months of susbsisting on only apples and tomatoes. Anorexia nervosa has the highest premature fatality rate of any mental illness.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), which founded New York’s Fashion Week and still plays a guiding role in the event, has decided not to enforce any medical exams or minimum body-mass index requirements in New York’s Fashion Week, saying that they promote, “awareness and education, not policing.”
Fashion industry heavyweights have come out both in favor of and against this decision. Armani has said that his company will stop booking size-zero models for runway shows. Yet Diane von Furstenberg, fashion luminary and president of the CFDA, has a different take. Furstenberg thinks that regulating the modeling industry will only fuel our already “absurd” obsession with models. When asked by a New York magazine reporter if models would ever have to weigh in at New York Fashion week, von Furstenberg replied, “Over my dead body.”