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Israel’s Photoshop Law Hits The Runway

Israel’s Photoshop Law Hits The Runway

In a first, models with a BMI of less than 18.5 are banned from the catwalk, photo shoots and ad campaigns.

Hannah Dreyfus is a former staff writer at the New York Jewish Week.

The Israeli fashion industry seems to be all about that bass.

While many have pledged to lose a few pounds this New Year, Israeli models have pledged to gain a few. As of January 1, models who want to work in print ads and runway shows in Israel must provide potential employers with medical proof certifying that they have a body mass index (BMI) of at least 18.5. According to that BMI standard, a female model who is 5 feet, 8 inches tall can weigh no less than 119 pounds.

While the Israeli government joins a number of other organizations like Milan Fashion Week, Vogue and the Council of Fashion Designers of America in setting minimum BMI limits, Israel is the first country to legislate a wholesale ban on dangerously skinny models.

The new law has been nicknamed the “Photoshop law” because of an additional regulation placed on advertisers requiring clear labeling on ads featuring digitally altered images of models.

Although the law targets adults in general, it is clearly aimed at female models. Eating disorders mostly affect young women. According to the Jerusalem Post, 1,500 teenagers develop an eating disorder. For 5 percent of those with anorexia, the disease is fatal.

“We are all affected," Adi Barkan, a fashion photographer who is now in the Israel Center for the Change in Eating Habits, told the Jerusalem Post. "We wear black, do [drastic] diets and are obsessive about our looks. The time has come for the end of the era of skeletons on billboards and sickly thinness all over. The time has come to think about ourselves and our children and take responsibility for what we show them. Too thin is not sexy.”

According to ABC news, Barkan initiated the legislation to regulate fashion models' body weight after his friend, Hila Elmaliah, a model, died of anorexia in 2007. She weighed 60 pounds. His subsequent campaign against the fashion industry culminated with the passage of this law by the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, early last year.

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