Ontario-born model, Alana Zimmer, was busy this season. She walked for Haider Ackermann, Dior, Lanvin, Ann Demeulemeester, Nina Ricci, Rochas, Mugler, Anthony Vaccarello, Aquilano Rimondi, Salvatore Ferragamo, Bottega Veneta, Pucci, Gucci, Burberry Prorsum, Acne, Matthew Williamson, Nicole Farhi, Richard Nicoll, Bill Blass, Marc Jacobs, Elie Tahari, J. Mendel, Michael Kors, Marchesa, Preen, Derek Lam … and more. Despite that fact that she was a constant figure on the runways from New York through Paris, her closing walk at Gianfranco Ferré's show in Milan has given rise to an array of controversy.
A handful of fashion writers have taken to publications to ask whether the 24-year old model is just too thin and if so, who is to blame for her prime placement during the latest Fashion Week? Interestingly, Zimmer's casting comes on the heels of a number of weight-related developments in the fashion industry. In 2006, Spain introduced the world's first ban on overly thin models, requiring that models maintain a body mass index of 18.5; Madrid's fashion week has reportedly since turned away underweight models after protests that girls and young women were trying to copy their rail-thin looks and developing eating disorders. That same year, Italy followed suit, implementing an Italian mandate, holding that cat walkers would be required to have a body mass index of 18.5.
A year later, French legislation was introduced to make all top models pass health tests and carry an international health card. The bill stalled in parliament, though. Also in 2007, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, a New York City-based trade organization, implemented a voluntary health standard (Read the guidelines here). Of the initiative, which was implemented in anticipation of the February 2007 runway shows, CFDA President Diane Von Furstenberg said:
"The CFDA formed a health initiative to address what has become a global fashion issue: the overwhelming concern about whether some models are unhealthily thin, and whether or not to impose restrictions in such cases. Designers share a responsibility to protect women, and very young girls in particular, within the business, sending the message that beauty is health."
Last but not least, Israel is the latest to implement a BMI standard. In 2012, Israel became the first country ever to pass legislation banning the use of "underweight" models in local ads and publications. The new law employs an interesting tactic: Models must prove that their Body Mass Index (BMI) is higher than the World Health Organization's indication of malnourishment (a BMI of 18.5) by producing an up-to-date medical report — no older than three months — at all shoots to be used in the Israeli market.
Despite such protections in place, it appears that many models and/or casting directors are finding ways around or are simply disregarding the height/weight consideration standards. The flurry of media reports surrounding Zimmer's appearance is a reminder that the industry, despite its recent efforts, still has work to do if it wants to promote a healthier image. More to come …