The Italian Almanac

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Italian News - September 16

Mayor Letizia Moratti of Milan wants designers to do a little math before the coming fashion week: calculate the body-mass index of their catwalk models to be sure they meet healthy standards. Like the Spanish organizers who recently banned overly thin models from the shows at Madrid fashion week, which begins Monday, Moratti echoed that it was time to stop "offering the public an unhealthy model" of the female form and urged designers to adopt less preternatural standards.

"We care about the health of our teenagers, and there is a problem of imitation and anorexia," Tiziana Maiolo, the city councilor responsible for fashion, said in a telephone interview from China. In today's society, young women are being raised to think that being an American size 10 is obese, she said. "That means something isn't working."

In the coming shows, models' body- mass index must fall within the optimal range of 18 to 22 set by the World Health Organization, which means that a 1.75-meter, or 5-foot, 8.5-inch, model can weigh no less than 55 kilograms, or 121 pounds. Body-mass index is calculated in imperial measurements by multiplying weight in pounds by height in inches squared and multiplying by a conversion factor of 703; in metric measure, it is weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared.

Industry insiders in Milan, where fashion week is a much more high-profile event than in Madrid, think that such standards could end up emptying many runways during the shows, which this year are from Sept. 23 to Oct. 1. "Frankly, there would be very few models left to walk," said Riccardo Gay, owner of the Milanese modeling agency that bears his name. "If they followed it to the letter, 80 percent of the models would be cut out."

Mario Boselli, chairman of the Italian National Chamber of Fashion, said he appreciated Moratti's concerns but argued that the "waif look" was out of style and that in the past two years models - both female and male - were decidedly more buff. "We don't need regulations, we need only depend on the good sense of Italian modeling agencies and designers," he said in a telephone interview. Anorexia in teenagers, he suggested, has more to do with personal psychological problems than with catwalks, where, he said, anorexic models are practically nonexistent now.