By and  on December 26, 2006

ROME — Italy is looking for international consensus on its plan to issue licenses to fashion models who meet an age and health standard.

The country's Chamber of Fashion hopes to achieve that goal by meeting with fashion associations from the U.S, France and the U.K. in Paris on Jan. 24.

Mario Boselli, president of the Camera della Moda, said he plans to discuss Italy's healthy models manifesto with the heads of Paris' Chambre Syndicale, the Council of Fashion Designers of America and British fashion officials.

"I think the problem is to apply the rules with good sense," said Boselli. "Fashion is an international network of buyers, producers, media and models, and this cannot be an individual choice of one country. We can't be isolated from the rest of the world."

Boselli spoke last Friday during a ceremony for the signing of the manifesto, created by Giovanna Melandri, the Italian minister for sports activities and youth programs; Livia Turco, the minister of health; Emma Bonino, the minister of foreign trade, and Barbara Pollastrini, the minister of equal opportunities. The manifesto was sent out that day to the associations in Paris, New York and London.

"We would like to see if it is possible to regulate the shows internationally," said Boselli, citing Madrid's enforcement of the World Health Organization's Body Mass Index last fall as "too binding and restricting." As reported, Italy's manifesto, first presented as a code of ethical self-regulation by the mayor of Milan, Letizia Moratti, takes ethnic differences into consideration, in addition to setting the minimum age for models at 16. Models will be expected to provide a license that guarantees they are healthy and, specifically, not affected by an eating disorder. "We need an international license. The rhythms of the shows are hectic and we can't decide at the last minute on a model that flies in from New York the night before a show," said Boselli, who urged the audience to be realistic. "They've asked me if we need to test Naomi," chuckled Boselli. "No, of course."

"Anorexia is an illness of our times, and there are no shortcuts [to fight it]," said Melandri. "This is a cultural challenge that must be handled with delicacy and determination at the same time." Melandri cited ABA, an Italian association that studies eating disorders, which reports that 60 percent of adolescents wish to be thinner. "This makes us think," said Melandri.However, the minister said, "Fashion is not responsible, and this is not a punitive move. This is a national manifesto, the first in the world, and Italy plays an important role, but it's not about rules and impositions; it's about one single parameter."

Stefano Dominella, president of Alta Roma, the city's couture show organization, also present at the press conference, said no measures would be taken against designers who did not comply with the manifesto. "Of course, jail is not contemplated," quipped Dominella. "Designers are savvy enough to understand that they can't really go against certain rules and that it would be negative for the industry and the country," he added. The manifesto will be applied for the first time at the couture shows in Rome in January, then in February at Milan Fashion Week.

Turco said, "Beauty should not follow a stereotype, but promote a healthy lifestyle," and Bonino said an eating disorder was "an illness of the spirit, but we should each contribute as much as we can in our own way. We don't believe this [manifesto] is a cure, but we simply don't want to promote the wrong models."

Steven Kolb, executive director of the CFDA, said, "It's a great opportunity to understand and share the direction that each of us are going in. What we do in here in the States is the result of the industry here, and our approach wouldn't necessarily be how other people would approach it. To come together and share information and to know what others think is the responsible way."

Diane von Furstenberg said on Friday that she had received an e-mail from Boselli about also discussing anorexia in the Jan.24 meeting, though the main aim of that meeting, she stressed, should be the fashion show calendar and ways to improve it.

"As it relates to the weight issue, I agree it is important and that the fashion industry has to be very sensitive to what we promote, but by the same token, anorexia is a disease that goes well beyond the fashion industry," she said. "The fashion industry has to become more responsible as to the age and the health condition it promotes through the models, it should promote health as a major part of beauty. Having said that, let's not become fanatics."

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