Milan avoids ban on ultra-thin models

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The Independent Online

Italy's fashion industry, one of the top three in the world along with Paris and New York, yesterday signed a "manifesto" with the government, pledging to take a new line on skinny models. The head of the industry's governing body, Mario Boselli, said it was an approach that could be imitated by other fashion producers around the world.

But the agreement left the door open to designers who insist that their new lines should continue to be worn by ultra-thin models.

All models will be required to produce a medical certificate declaring that they are healthy and do not suffer from eating disorders. The certificate will also make reference to Body Mass Index (BMI), the key index in determining whether or not someone is underweight. Models under the age of 16 will not be allowed to work.

But the industry has managed to avoid embracing an outright ban on underweight models.

The move follows the decision by Madrid's fashion show in September to bar models with a BMI under 18 from the catwalks.

Mr Boselli, president of Italy's Camera della Moda, said: "The 'Madrid model' could not be applied [in Italy]. But the 'Milan model' can become an example for all the world." The key to the "Milan model" is self-regulation by fashion houses rather than imposition by the government.

"Italian fashion is the first in the world," boasted Mr Boselli, "and with this initiative we are assuming an attitude of constructive leadership which could be followed by others."

The manifesto has the ambitious goal of sending the fashion business in a new direction. The principal object is to "creatively and constructively transmit positive aesthetic models as an instrument of prevention" of eating disorders.

The task, it continues, is "to give value to a healthy, sunny, generous, Mediterranean model of beauty which historically, Italy has diffused internationally."

The words are impressive, but whether they produce the required revolution in Milan's ateliers remains to be seen. Milan's designers may see Mr Boselli's evasion of tough rules on BMI as a nod and a wink to carry on as before.

In the wake of the Spanish ban, Milan's reaction was to deny the problem. Mr Boselli declared that "maybe one girl in a hundred" could be defined as skinny. The Mayor of Milan, Letizia Moratti, the first Italian politician to raise the issue, said: "None of us ever considered working in an oppositional manner" to bring about an agreement.