Shiran Shaul, one of Adi Barkan’s clients, and a ‘model’ example of a healthy weight.Two years ago, leading Israeli fashion photographer and fashion agency head Adi Barkan initiated a campaign to fight anorexia among models in the fashion industry in Israel. And now the movement is spreading globally.

The Madrid Fashion Week last week banned underweight models from appearing, and subsequently British Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell and Milan Mayor Letizia Moratti have called on the London Fashion Week and the Milan fashion industry to respectively follow suit.

In Israel, Barkan’s efforts have also paid off – the leading Israeli retail companies have agreed not to employ overly thin models for their advertisements. Barkan said he had secured commitments from firms that account for 60 percent of advertising volume in Israel to turn away models whose body mass index – the ratio of height to weight – is less than 18.

“The average BMI among our models is 14. The new pact comes into effect next week, when we expect all the major fashion agencies to sign on,” Barkan told Reuters. He said underweight models would have a grace period to catch up.

Barkan, owner of the Barkan Modeling Agency in Tel Aviv, launched his campaign for healthy models almost two years ago with then Knesset member Inbal Gavrieli.

They introduced a bill to the Knesset requiring that models undergo health examinations, and have their BMI checked before entering the modeling profession. The legislation has passed a first reading in parliament and could be ratified by year’s end, Barkan said.

“Up until now, anorexia and bulimia have been the modeling world’s dirty little secret,” Barkan told ISRAEL21c last year. “We in this industry have perpetuated and even glorified eating disorders by celebrating thinness and packaging malnutrition in such an attractive way, that young women everywhere aspire to have ‘the look.’ It is time that this industry comes clean about this dangerous problem and shows the world that beauty and high fashion do not equal starvation.”

The law in the Knesset would require all potential models to submit to a nutritional test with a licensed nutritionist or dietician. Agencies would be forbidden to represent a model without a copy of the test results. Subsequently, the agency would not be allowed to continue representing the model unless she submits to the test every six months. Any agency that does not comply will be fined accordingly and all forms will be monitored by the Health Ministry.

Gavrieli, the bill’s initiator, said “The welcome initiative relates to the world of modeling, but we hope it will assist us in reaching all society. The law’s aim is to create a new image of beauty – an image that includes beauty and health in one word.”

Among the companies who have committed to the agreement to not use unhealthy models are Strauss-Elite, one of Israel’s largest food industries; Castro fashion house; Bank Hapoalim; and Partner cell phones.