The British fashion industry must get its "house in order" or face the threat of new body image laws, a campaigning MP has warned. Conservative Caroline Nokes told IBTimes UK that legislation is "a long way off" but MPs should consider actions such as those by Italy and France.
The latter country voted to ban agencies from using ultra-thin models in April in a bid to combat eating conditions such as anorexia. The act means a fashion firm can be fined up to €75,000 (£54,251) or the employer could face imprisonment for six-months if their models are below a mass index (BMI) of 18.
Nokes, the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Body Image, said: "There is a carrot and a stick here. The carrot is that we want there to be healthier images of beauty that we can all aspire to as a population, and the stick is 'get your house in order or we will look at ways in which legislation might be possible,'" the MP explained.
The comments come as Nokes plans to invite senior members of the fashion industry to be questioned by the APPG on body image. "This is an industry which has failed over many years to regulate itself, we have repeatedly seen underweight, painfully thin models on the catwalk, and what the APPG will look at if there is a way that this can be regulated."
Almost 50,000 people have signed an online petition urging the government to create a law to "protect models from getting dangerously skinny". The Change.org campaign was created by Rosie Nelson, a 23-year-old model.
"I've been on shoots for up to 10 hours where no food is provided – the underlying message is always that you shouldn't eat. The agencies managing and recruiting models have a responsibility to the wellbeing of girls on the catwalk at fashion week, and in the industry as a whole," said Nelson.
"Earlier this year France became the latest country to vote to criminalise the use of models who are dangerously thin. Those breaking the law face fines and up to six months in jail. The time is now to make changes in the UK," said Nelson.
But the French legislation has reportedly come under criticism for being too "simplistic". Isabelle Saint-Felix, of the National Union of Modelling Agencies, told AFP: "When you look at the criteria behind anorexia, you can't look only at the body mass index when other criteria are also involved: psychological, a history of hair loss, dental problems."