Social shift in style. Dior and Gucci officially dropping ultra-skinny models

Massive fashion houses hope to set an example for the rest of the industry

Massive fashion houses hope to set an example for the rest of the industry

(iStock Photo/Getty)

Two of the most prodigious fashion firms in the world have committed to a charter they've drawn up that ensures they never use underweight models again. LVMH and Kering, French houses that govern numerous mega fashion brands like Christian Dior, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Givenchy, Thomas Pink, Stella McCartney and Fendi, are making a bold move amid mounting pressure that the fashion industry fuels eating disorders.

In an announcement that comes just before Paris Fashion Week later this month, LVMH and associated groups have strongly aligned themselves with recent laws passed in France that ban excessively slender models outright. The laws, put into effect in May, aim to protect the wellbeing of men and women working in the fashion industry, and they're exacting.

Before being hired for catwalk or photography contracts models need to provide a recent doctor's certificate confirming their overall health, with marked emphasis on their body mass index (BMI), or height to weight ratio. Specifically, models must be larger than a French size 32 (a US size 0), or they can't be hired for catwalk shows. The law affects visual media too - any photographs where a model's appearance has been manipulated digitally are subject to rules that ensures houses label them photographie retouchée (retouched photo). The French Health Ministry is adamant that their goal is to combat eating disorders and unattainable beauty standards. Breaking the new laws results in fines of up to 75,000 euros (about $110,000 in Canadian dollars) or six months in jail.   

The worldwide charter drawn up by LVHM and Kering however goes even further than the strict letter of the law: they say their models will also have access to a psychologist or therapist while working. Director of LVHM, Antoine Arnault, says the charter isn't just about being legally compliant. "I am deeply committed to ensuring that the working relationship between LVMH Group brands, agencies and models goes beyond simply complying with the legal requirements." Ultimately, by adhering to a charter in line with recent laws, reps say they want to set an example within an industry which has long been under fire for its celebration of the impossibly thin beauty archetype. Francois-Henri Pinault, chairman of Kering, spoke for the firm saying he hoped their stance would "inspire the entire industry to follow suit".

The laws and charter mirror an undeniable societal shift that approaches beauty ideals more mindfully.  Whereas industry terms like heroine chic were playfully thrown about in the 90s, now inclusivity reigns and models are being hired that represent a broader segment of the population. Legislation in Europe is beginning to support that shift forcing fashion houses to adopt a slightly more pragmatic approach to showcasing style for the masses.   

Of course, the move serves the houses as well. Louis Vuitton, a brand covered by LVHM was widely criticised in May when Danish model Ulrikke Hoyer said she was asked to starve herself in preparation for an upcoming show. The casting director denies the claims but a new charter positions all brands under the LVHM umbrella favourably.

Still, that these new health protection laws center on the fashion industry is far from accidental.