Models Unite to Combat Eating Disorders in the Fashion Industry

Leah Prinzivalli
Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

A new study, released Tuesday in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, confirms that the American fashion industry has long been rife with models who have eating disorders. The study reports that models are being pressured to jeopardize their health as a prerequisite for employment.

The sample of 85 professional female models reported high levels of pressure from agencies to lose weight. In the past year alone, 62.4 percent of the models surveyed were asked to change their body shape or size by an industry professional. Fifty-six percent said they “sometimes/often/always” skip meals. The goal of “extreme thinness” was associated with higher levels of unhealthy weight control behaviors, or disordered eating.

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The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) released an open letter to the “American Fashion Industry” in response to the study, calling on fashion leaders to “prioritize health and celebrate diversity” as New York Fashion Week begins. NEDA will be closely monitoring the runways this season — and, they say, calling out designers who make strides towards health and diversity.

The letter says, “Through our social media platforms, which collectively reach millions of people, we will recognize the industry leaders who step up to this challenge. Specifically, we will keep an eye out for diversity of race, size, age, and gender status, and we hope to see diversity within and across all of those categories.”

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Sara Ziff, founder of industry advocacy group The Model Alliance, spoke to WWD about the benefits of empirical research that backs up the need for policy change in the fashion industry. “When we look into the impact on the environment, we take science into account, right? The fashion industry has not done that to date. We need to use research like this to inform any policy proposals or solutions that might be implemented,” she said.

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Models — including Iskra Lawrence, Emme, Elettra Wiedemann, and Carré Otis — have signed on to the open letter and joined the call for diversity across runways this season.

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NEDA also wants us to get involved. Every voice counts in the call for diversity, so they are asking supporters to sign a petition to encourage industry professionals to promote health on the runways. The public letter has simple requests: That all child labor laws be observed, that all models are older than 16, and that professionals work together to encourage policy changes in health and diversity. Sign the petition here.


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