Fashion authorities across the globe are working to combat excessive thinness in the modeling industry. The French government recently put legislation in place that bans models with a Body Mass Index (BMI) less than 18. While France requires that models produce a medical certificate, British fashion brand Rose and Williard is taking a more drastic approach. The label is forcing models to eat while authorities watch.
Rose and Willard added the non-negotiable clause to model contracts to try and thwart unhealthy eating practices. It’s an extreme measure that Rose and Willard founder Heidy Rehman only considered after witnessing models act “delirious” and talk “gibberish” due to hunger. But does the clause take things too far?
The idea of forcing someone to eat under surveillance is quite over-the-top. It’s also not as effective as France’s BMI requirement. If a model is battling an eating disorder, one meal in front of Rose and Willard founders won’t change anything in the long run. Nonetheless, the brand is moving full steam ahead with its eating requirement and models who don’t comply will not be compensated for their time.
“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,” Rehman wrote in a feature for The Huffington Post. “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.”
Surely, there has to be a better way to encourage healthy eating practices than standing over models as they eat a forced meal. France’s BMI regulation is less invasive and it’s a better indication of whether models are truly healthy. Rose and Willard would be smart to consider it.
UPDATE: We received a comment from the team at Rose and Willard after this article was posted. An excerpt from their statement is included below.
“Whenever we have worked with models we have always catered to any food requests and dietary requirements – the model always has a comprehensive choice as to what she would like to eat and/or whether she has dietary restrictions. What we find is that professional models rarely eat or only sparingly. Given photo shoots last for a full day and we have had experience of models in a clear state of hunger (to the point of delirium on once occasion) we are now requiring them to eat (via a mutually-agreeable contractual clause) in order to sustain themselves for a shoot. It need only be a small, simple meal or it can be a pizza – whatever they choose to eat will be the model’s choice. Alternatively, she can choose not to sign our contract and not work with us – again, that is absolutely her choice.
We are not saying we have the answer to this far-reaching issue – far from it. However we would say that, from a moral perspective, we cannot idly sit by and watch a young woman spend a day with us during which she starves herself. Of course, and as you point out, she may starve herself before and after her shoots. That is her prerogative. However, during her time with us, and while we have a duty of care, that will not happen.”