News & Runway

Model Iskra Lawrence to the Fashion Industry: ‘Stop Promoting Eating Disorders!’

#DearNYFW it matters who walks. New research study confirms that models working in the American fashion industry are being pressured to sacrifice their health for their job. It’s time to prioritize health and celebrate diversity at #NYFW. (Click the link in my bio to read the letter from me and other models) – and stand with us by signing the petition! Let’s show the world that diversity (race, age, height, size, shape, gender) is our strength and health is our priority. Thank you @nedastaff @modelallianceny @saraziff for standing up & speaking up, you inspire me to try and use my platforms to create, empower, educate and hopefully make a positive impact! Thank you for reading and I hope you all take a look at the open letter link in my bio #NEDA wearing @aerie track pants #AerieReal

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With New York Fashion Week just around the corner, industry movers and shakers are doing what they can to ensure Fall 2017 has the healthiest, most diverse model lineup yet. The Council of Fashion Designers of America recently issued its now bi-annual e-mail reminding designers of the need for diversity: “New York Fashion Week is also a celebration of our city’s diversity, which we hope to see on the runways.” The letter also emphasized that the organization “will continue to grow its health and wellness initiatives through the CFDA Foundation and Equinox Coalition for Health as Beauty.” 

Elsewhere, former catwalk star, Harvard alum and Model Alliance founder Sara Ziff co-authored a study in the International Journal of Eating Disorders that sheds new light on the prevalence of weight-control practices in the modeling industry. Ziff, along with researchers from Harvard University, Northeastern University, and Boston Children’s Hospital, surveyed 85 female models during last February’s New York Fashion Week. While it’s no secret that the modeling industry puts unhealthy, undue emphasis on thinness as beauty, the resulting statistics still manage to shock.

For one, “21 percent were told by their agency that they would stop representing them unless they lost weight. Over nine percent had been recommended plastic surgery. I didn’t expect those numbers, to be honest,” Ziff told Vogue.

Furthermore, over half of the women surveyed (62 percent) “reported being asked to have to lose weight or change their shape or size by their agency or someone else in the industry. That’s from a sample of people who are [on average] already considered underweight by World Health Organization standards. We’re talking about people who have a BMI that already would put them in the unhealthy category and they’re being told to lose more weight. That’s really troubling,” Ziff continued.

In response, over 40 models — including body-positive activists Iskra LawrenceSabina Karlsson and Marquita Pring — penned an open letter to industry leaders urging them to “make a serious commitment to promote health and diversity on the runway” as “eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental health concern and survivors often suffer irreversible damage to their health.” And, as Ziff’s study clearly demonstrates, the pressure on models “to jeopardize their health and safety as a prerequisite for employment” is rampant as ever, body-positive movement or no. Of course, Lawrence, Karlsson and Prinq and their ample social media followings can only do so much. Serious, enforceable legislation is needed to protect models from unhealthy industry pressures — and corrupt employment practices in general.

Read the models’ message below, then head over to the NEDA website to check out the full list of signees.

Image: NEDA

Image: NEDA