Catwalk model 'sanctuary' faces closure

Centre launched to help vulnerable models during London Fashion Week is to close over rent issues

A respite centre which gives support to vulnerable catwalk models will not open during London Fashion Week later this month after its founder, Erin O'Connor, said the organisation had lost its premises over rent issues.

The British supermodel, 33, launched the Model Sanctuary in 2008 to provide "discrete health guidance and educational support" to models.

Based in Covent Garden, the centre was launched after the refusal by London Fashion Week organisers to follow the example of countries such as Spain by banning dangerously thin models from the catwalk.

The centre had become a vital resource during the event, opening its doors to 200 models a day, many aged between 16 and 18, who made use of its team of health professionals, including a psychologist and nutritionist. But Ms O'Connor said yesterday: "For reasons beyond my control, the Model Sanctuary will not be operating during the forthcoming London Fashion Week.

"This is due to a combination of last minute changes to contributions from sponsors and, despite an incredible response from a number of loyal and enthusiastic supporters, we have been unable to find an alternative venue after our home of the last few seasons became subject to a long-term lease."

Ms O'Connor described by Karl Lagerfeld as one of the world's best models, urged the fashion industry to provide the financial support to "help us secure a permanent home during London Fashion Week, so we can continue our valuable work."

The Model Sanctuary was backed by Jo Swinson, a Liberal Democrat MP, who campaigns against airbrushing models in adverts.

She said: "London Fashion Week is a very demanding time for models, who are faced with real pressures surrounding their health and appearance. At the Model Sanctuary, models can make their own health and wellbeing decisions in a positive way."

The London Fashion Week 2012 starts on 17 February.

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