News & Runway

France Just Passed Strict Laws Against Retouched Ads and Too-Thin Models

Anja Rubik for Saint Laurent Spring 2017.

Anja Rubik poses by the Seine for Saint Laurent Spring 2017; Image: Inez & Vinoodh

Just weeks ago, France’s Autorité de Regulation Professionnelle de la Publicité won a major battle when the Council of Paris voted to ban any “sexist and discriminatory” outdoor ads from appearing within city limits (including those racy Saint Laurent Spring 2017 ads). Today, the French government passed an even broader measure requiring that all “commercial photographs where models’ bodily appearance has been modified (to refine or broaden their silhouette)” be labeled as “photographie retouchée” (which translates to “retouched photograph”). The law, which goes into effect October 1, applies to all ads, whether print, digital, catalog or billboard.

But wait, there’s more. Per the Journal Officiel — the French republic’s official gazette — as of tomorrow, all models who wish to work in France (even the non-French ones) will be required by law to provide a medical document certifying the “overall state of health of the person older than 16 years old, evaluated notably in regard to their body-mass index.” These certificates must be renewed every two years.

Diversity Report: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back for Spring 2017 Ads ]

“Exposing young people to normative and unrealistic images of bodies leads to a sense of self-depreciation and poor self-esteem that can impact health-related behavior,” Marisol Touraine, France’s Minister of Social Affairs and Health, said in an official statement. “The two texts published today in the Journal Officiel aim to act on body image in society, so as to avoid the promotion of beauty ideals that are inaccessible and to prevent anorexia in young people. The objective is also to protect the health of a category of the population particularly touched by this risk: models.”

According to Women’s Wear Daily, the retouched photo law took — wait for it — eight years to pass. While it’s definitely a major step towards greater transparency in French advertising, it will pose issues for models working between France and cities like New York where, according to a recent study in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, models with an unhealthy BMI are still strong-armed into losing weight.

[ via WWD ]