Prove you are healthy, Milan tells models

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The Independent Online

Milan, one of the world's top fashion cities, is to tighten the rules governing models parading on its catwalks, introducing a new code of conduct aimed at curbing the number of dangerously thin women in the industry.

Following the example of Madrid, where skinny models were recently banished from the catwalks, it will require that models prove that they are in good health before they can be hired.

Announcing the new rules at this year's Milan Fashion Week, Guido Dolci, the president of Associazione Servizi Moda (Assem), the body which represents the top agencies, said all models would have to comply in future.

"The association will require all models to produce a medical certificate and, if they are minors, they must show a school certificate and be accompanied by an authorised tutor or a parent," he said.

Tiziano Maiolo, the city councillor responsible for supervising the fashion business, said Milan would not tolerate the exploitation of vulnerable young women who were determined to succeed as models. "We will work together with modelling agencies, with the Chamber of Commerce for Fashion and with doctors to ensure that - above all - modelling agencies and stylists do not favour the phenomenon of anorexia," she said.

"I am happy that it is Milan which will dictate not only styles but also the rules of behaviour, with an agreement which the city will endorse," she said.

The move, however, is far from an admission of guilt by Milan's agencies, which insist they treat models well and take care of their health. Instead, they lay the blame at the door of what Assem calls "unauthorised pseudo-agencies on the lookout for inexperienced little girls". Instead of the promised place on the catwalk, these girls "often find themselves working as escorts or prostitutes".

Mr Dolci said: "We want to bring transparency to this sector, which is of strategic importance for our country, and of which the models are a part."

But Milan's agencies are in no hurry to impose the strict body mass index rules introduced at Madrid, which prevented anorexic-looking models from participating. Milan's new code will present no difficulties to agencies with thin models on their books, as long as they are accompanied by the right pieces of paper. It is a symbolic measure at best.

And in any case, according to the president of the Chamber of Commerce for Fashion, Mario Boselli, thinness is not an Italian problem. "In the Bel Paese [Beautiful Country], the cadaverously thin had their moment of fame five years ago and that was it," he said. "Food, fashion and furniture are Italy's three strong points, and food is the first of these. Don't forget that we also export a certain style of life. Our models have no need of regulation. And for their part the designers are of the same view, they don't want to send out models who are suffering."