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Criticizing the fashion industry for promoting an unhealthy image of beauty is nothing new. How designers are responding to these allegations is however. In 2006, the authorities at Madrid Fashion Week barred models with a body mass index of less than 18 from walking down the runway. In the U.K the British Fashion Council recently established a new rule requiring all models to obtain declarations from doctors proving that their weight is healthy. While this rule won’t be put into practice until next year, some designers are already taking action.

This fashion week in Milan, Prada made a conscious effort to use curvier models and in Paris Karl Lagerfeld rejected three ultra-thin models from his show, saying that they looked unhealthy and unattractive. However, it’s less clear whether his stand against unhealthy models will have an impact outside the industry. The designers who create minuscule sample sizes and the size zero models who wear them are often blamed for promoting unrealistic standards of beauty. But while cultural pressures certainly have an impact on the number of women with eating disorders, the fashion industry is not the only factor.

The causes behind eating disorders are complex, and studies have demonstrated that a person’s upbringing, emotional health, and genetics may have an impact on eating habits. Likewise, ideas about weight within one’s community may also influence behavior. These factors aside, seeing more models of different shapes and sizes could only be positive. In this regard then, the events taking place in Europe is good news for models and non-models alike. Hopefully, the rest of the world will follow suit…

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