While photoshopping is completely commonplace in fashion advertising and editorials, retouched imagery from a number of the fashion industry's leading brands - those based in the world's fashion capital - will look a bit different from now on. Following from a bill that was first introduced eight years ago in France, fashion photos must - as of Sunday - bear a notification if they have been digitally altered to make a model's silhouette "narrower or wider."
Yes, beginning on October 1, “Photographie retouchée” (or “retouched photograph”) will have to accompany digitally modified images published in advertising, the media, on the internet and in catalogs if the retouching "has changed the physical appearance of models,” according to the French law, which was officially passed in March.
Another aspect of the law that already went into effect: Models in France must undergo a medical examination every two years and be issued with a medical certificate certifying that their they are in good enough health to work. Particular attention will be paid, according to the law, to their body mass index ("BMI"), which is calculated by dividing their weight by the square of their height. (Note: The World Health Organization considers a person underweight if their BMI is below 18.5 and seriously underweight if it is below 16).
Failing to abide by the law - either on the "too skinny" models front (some Paris-based brands seem to have opted to patently ignore this provision during the latest round of Spring/Summer shows, which is still underway in Paris) or in terms of unlabeled imagery - could cost rule-breakers a fine of up to $44,000.
As for whether brands will choose to abide by the law (as opposed to risking it, so to speak, and taking the fine if they are caught not labeling their retouched photos) and/or whether the French government will actually devote resources to ensure that the law is, in fact, being followed, these are separate matters entirely.
While the French government has not indicated how - exactly - it plans to monitor the newly-enacted photoshop provisions (which could suggest that the actual implementation of the law will be slow), Getty Images - an American photo agency - recently announced that it immediately work to implement a ban on retouched fashion images in terms of its portfolio.
Representatives for Getty, the world’s largest provider of stock photos, no shortage of which are fashion-related, said the Seattle-based company will no longer be accepting images of “models whose body shapes have been retouched to make them look thinner or larger."
Getty spokeswoman Anne Flanagan told NPR that the company’s decision was a “direct response” to France’s new rule.