Sponsors in threat to London Fashion Week over models' health

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of thousands of pounds in public funding for London Fashion Week could be withdrawn unless the event implements new recommendations on models' health published last month, one of its sponsors warned yesterday.

UK Trade & Investment, a government body that sponsors the international buyers programme, said its future support would hinge on London Fashion Week sticking to the guidelines set out by Baroness Kingsmill.

They include forcing models to produce health certificates to prove they do not have eating disorders and ensuring that girls aged 16-18 are chaperoned.

Andrew Cahn, UKTI's chief executive, said: "Our future support will be based on arrangements made in liaison with the London Development Agency [another of the event's sponsors]. This will be subject to key decisions made by the Mayor in relation to funding."

The Mayor said he would be under "huge pressure" to withdraw LDA funding if the assembly felt that the Model Health Inquiry had not had the desired effect. "Let us see what pressure we can mount over coming months," Mr Livingstone said last month.

Sponsors' funds are the lifeblood of London Fashion Week, which is organised by the British Fashion Council. It receives £1m each season from sponsors including Canon, Tesco and BA. The LDA is negotiating a new sponsorship deal with the BFC. Its £620,000 deal over three years has just ended.

An LDA spokesman said yesterday the agency was in the process of agreeing "various performance indicators which will be monitored on an ongoing basis" with the BFC. He added: "Future support will be conditional on progress against these measures."

Dee Doocey, the Liberal Democrat culture spokeswoman on the London Assembly, which asks sponsors to make funding conditional on LFW implementing the report's recommendations, said: "I see the UKTI pledge as a breakthrough. I'm hoping many other sponsors will follow." So far Canon has refused to make its funding conditional.

The threat to LFW's funding came as the fashion industry was put under a spotlight by Beat, the leading eating disorders association. At a debate yesterday, panellists including Dr Adrienne Key, who sat on the Model Health Inquiry board, said it was important to keep the pressure on the industry. Susan Ringwood, Beat's chief executive, said the panellists hoped to devise a kitemark scheme to reassure consumers that "the fashion industry had not exploited anyone in producing the items they are buying".