Almost exactly a year ago, the CFDA hosted a breakfast to announce their Health Initiative. It was a bitter cold morning but the fashionistas bundled up and turned out in droves to hear the announcement of the CFDA's recommendations to promote wellness and a healthier working environment for models. Lest we forget, here are those recommendations:
1. Educate the industry to identify the early warning signs in an individual at risk of developing an eating disorder.
2. Models who are identified as having an eating disorder should be required to seek professional help in order to continue modeling. And models who are receiving professional help for an eating should not continue modeling without that professional's approval.
3. Develop workshops for the industry (including models and their families) on the nature of eating disorders, how they arise, how we identify and treat them, and complications if they are untreated.
4. Support the well-being of younger individuals by not hiring models under the age of sixteen for runway shows; not allowing models under the age of eighteen to work past midnight at fittings or shoots; and providing regular breaks and rest.
5. Supply healthy meals, snacks, and water backstage and at shoots and provide nutrition and fitness education.
6. Promote a healthy backstage environment by raising awareness of the impact of smoking and tobacco-related disease among women, ensuring a smoke-free environment, and address the issue of underage drinking by prohibiting alcohol.
The CFDA has taken a lot of heat for not including BMI restrictions in their guidelines. However, we think there's an even more important recommendation that's missing: medical exams for models. In fact, the medical experts and fashion industry insiders we surveyed agreed that exams were most likely to be effective.
A low BMI might signify an eating disorder, but an average BMI certainly doesn't mean that a model is in good health. People with eating disorders are not always dangerously underweight. Magali was never stick thin, but she was so sick that she once passed out at a photo shoot. If we're serious about protecting models' health, we need to find a way to ensure that they are getting regular check-ups. A doctor can examine the physical, but perhaps more important is that private one-on-one time when a trained professional can ask each model how she/he is doing emotionally. It's a question that's rarely asked in such a frantically-paced industry where young models are increasingly replaceable. It's a question that can be a lifesaver.