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Monday, January 29, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Fashion leaders agree to discuss eating disorders

The Associated Press

PARIS -- Fashion bosses from Paris, Milan, New York and London have agreed to take part in a debate on how to address eating disorders after some countries took measures to ban ultra-skinny models from their catwalks, according to French fashion's governing body.

"It is a serious problem to which one cannot be insensitive," the Chambre Syndicale said in a statement. "All the bodies concerned have to participate in terms of information."

Leaders from the Chambre Syndicale, Italy's Camera Nazionale della Moda, the Council of Fashion Designers of America and the British Fashion Council met this week on the sidelines of Paris couture week to discuss their 2008 calendar and the health debate.

They agreed to take part in a debate on the delicate issue, the statement said, without elaborating.

Nothing further was decided at the Wednesday gathering, but the head of the French body said he was against adding fresh regulations in the wake of similar moves by Madrid and Milan.

"We must inform people, but above all not regulate the sector more than it already is," said Didier Grumbach. "Regulation is something that weighs down the atmosphere."

He noted that strict guidelines were introduced in the 1980s to regulate French modeling agencies. They included mandatory medical visits for models under 16.

"Therefore, there is no need for us to regulate the sector, and we thought it was normal for others to do so because they hadn't done it in the past," Grumbach said.

Organizers of fashion shows in London and New York have similarly stopped short of introducing a ban on overly thin models, but they are launching consultations with designers aimed at encouraging the use of healthy-looking girls.

The debate over waiflike models has intensified in the past year as many models and celebrities appear increasingly thin.


In September, Madrid's Fashion Week announced it was banning models with a Body Mass Index, or height-to-weight ratio, below 18. A 5-foot-9 model weighing 125 pounds would have a BMI of 18. Milan's fashion week also tightened its restrictions on underweight models.

The issue was back in the headlines in November, when 21-year-old Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston died of causes linked to the eating disorder anorexia nervosa.

France's Chambre Syndicale said in its statement it had agreed to participate in a working group organized by the Health Ministry. Grumbach had initially said the debate on eating disorders did not concern the fashion industry and it did not plan to take part.

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