French fashion supremos divided over Italy's anti-anorexia ads

PARIS, Sept 27, 2007 (AFP) - Italy's anti-anorexia ads have divided France's powerful fashion industry -- with the high end couture federation deeming them "scandalous" while its ready-to-wear cousin hails a fresh move to keep skinny models out of fashion.


Photo : Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Asked to comment on photographer Oliviero Toscani's striking image of a nude anorexic woman which was plastered on billboards and in magazines across Italy this week, Didier Grumbach, head of the French Couture Federation, told AFP:

"I'm pleased this is not happening in France. I find this absolutely scandalous.

"Winning notoriety through people's illness is painful. What we're seeing here is sensationalism by a label, to the detriment of an extremely serious social problem," Grumbach said.

Toscani's picture of Frenchwoman Isabelle Caro, who weighs just 32 kilogrammes (70 pounds) for a height of 1.65 metres, is part of a campaign by Italian clothing firm No-l-ita that was launched in the middle of Milan fashion week under the slogan "No to Anorexia."

"I thought this could be a chance to use my suffering to get a message across, and finally put an image on what thinness represents and the danger it leads to -- which is death," Caro told the press this week.

The French fashion industry, gearing up for its own spring-summer ready-to-wear Fashion Week starting Saturday, to date has failed to finalise a proposed charter to keep ultra thin models off catwalks, magazines and advertising posters.

"This young girl is not a model," Grumbach also told AFP. "This is low behaviour ... It is degrading."

But the head of the French Ready-to-Wear Federation, Jean-Pierre Mocho, did not agree.

"If you don't show people (anorexia) it remains nothing more than dinner-table talk," he told AFP. "You must show the disaster."

Mocho said his federation favoured a raft of stiff measures in France to meet growing global concerns over the link between showcasing skinny bodies and anorexia.

"Whatever the size of a company, measures should be imposed," he said.

Mocho bemoaned the fact that France was heading towards drawing up a consensus charter containing guidelines but no legal provisos.

Leaders of both France's powerful couture world and the ready-to-wear industry had joined a working-group set up by the Health Ministry in January amid concern over teenage anorexia following the death of two South American models last year.

But talks to fine-tune an ethics "charter on body image" drafted in May were suspended and will not resume until next month, a ministry official said.

In France, agencies require a government-registered licence and must request special authorisation for models aged under 16, who undergo regular medical check-ups.

Also asked for comment, the head of the National Union of Model Agencies (UNAM), Isabelle Saint-Felix, said she was unaware of the Italian campaign but believed that anorexia and thin models should not be lumped together.

"We have extremely specific legislation in France for model agencies," she said. "We should do more to promote our laws rather than anything else."

by Dominique Schroeder

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