Thin Is Out On Israeli Runway
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Thin Is Out On Israeli Runway

Hannah Dreyfus is a staff writer at the New York Jewish Week. She covers abuses of power in non-profit and religious settings. She heads up the Investigative Journalism Fund, an initiative to fill a gap in investigative and enterprise reporting. Reach her at hannah@jewishweek.org

Turns out there is such a thing as being too thin. At least in Israel.

In a first, models in the Jewish state with a BMI (body mass index) of less than 18.5 are banned from the catwalk, photo shoots and ad campaigns. According to that standard, a female model who is 5-feet-8 can weigh no less than 119 pounds.

While the Israeli government joins other organizations such as 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 what it considers dangerously skinny models.

The new law, which went into effect last week, 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.

Amnon Shenfeld, co-founder of MTKL, a company that creates calendars featuring Israeli models who have served in the Israeli Defense Force, said that the age of “heroin chic,” the emaciated look popularized by Kate Moss in the mid-’90s, is over.

“It’s time for healthy and beautiful,” Shenfeld said. His company selects models that provide a realistic view of Israeli women. “We want to showcase the sexy aspect of the strong female character.”

Still, Shenfeld thinks the new law is a little late in the game. “Consumers are not as naïve as they were in the ’80s and ’90s,” he Shenfeld. “Today, people realize how drastically Photoshop could alter a photo, and publishers and advertisers try to avoid over Photoshopping models to a point where they look unhealthy.”

Although the law, sponsored by Kadima’s Rachel Adatto, targets adults in general, it’s clearly aimed at female models. Eating disorders mostly affect young women. A report presented to the Knesset in 2002 found that 5 percent of young Israelis suffered from eating disorders. Of those, 90 percent were girls between the ages of 12 and 20.

“We are all affected,” Adi Barkan, a fashion photographer who is now at 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. … Too thin is not sexy.”

Barkan began his fight for the legislation to regulate fashion models’ body weight in 2007 after his model friend, Hila Elmaliah, died of bulimia. She weighed 60 pounds.

editor@jewishweek.org

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