Should models be forced to eat?
That’s the question that British clothing company Rose & Willard is raising, Quartz reports, noting that the company is requiring models to sign contracts in which they agree to not just eat, but to be watched while they consume meals. Should they not comply, both the models and their respective agents won’t be paid.
It’s sounds slightly patronizing, but the intentions are there.
Rose & Willard’s founder, Heidy Rehman, wrote an essay in The Huffington Post UK detailing her controversial, albeit monumental, decision.
“If we do opt for the former we have decided that we will include a non-negotiable contractual clause with the model agency which will state that the model must eat a meal and in our presence. We will not allow her to only eat a tiny morsel and/or suggest she’ll eat later. The consequence of non-compliance will be that neither she nor her agency will be paid,” she wrote.
The goal, she wrote, is to protect the models and their well being.
“At Rose & Willard we are committed to protecting the models who work for us and are very much encouraged by public debate of this important and sensitive topic,” she wrote, citing some sad observations she’s made. She’s heard of models eating tissues, and she said that many models she had spoken to said they thought they would get more work if they lost weight.
She also discussed a model who was starving to the point that she had to be sent home — she couldn’t function.
Rehman believes that social media will help spread the word about her message.
“We continue to believe that industry self-regulation is the way forward. We think this can be achieved by the public applying moral pressure to fashion brands. Social media, in our opinion, is the perfect conduit,” she wrote.
The question, however, lies in what the company is actually accomplishing by mandating that its models eat. Does it help the women? Or does it just make the company feel like it’s philanthropic? Forcing a model to eat under scrutiny doesn’t exactly ameliorate her problems, should she actually have an eating disorder.
Some countries have taken drastic moves to protect models.
France, for instance, has banned emaciated models from even stepping foot on the runway, Reuters reported last spring. They need documentation indicating that they’re at a healthy BMI. In that radical move, France seemed to send a larger message: that unhealthy models do not get work, and unhealthy is not something people should aspire to be.
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