French fashion took a bold step against anorexia and the physical abuse of models by moving to ban ultra-thin and underage models from their advertising and catwalk shows on Wednesday.

The fashion behemoths pledged not to hire models that are too young or too thin for either shoots or live events. This follows French legislation introduced in May 2017, which requires models to produce a health certificate. Agents violating this face charges of €75,000 and up to six years sentences.

“Ultra-thin” is defined as size 32 in France, XXS in the US, 4 in the UK. Men will need to be size 44 or over.

In 2009, France’s National Institute of Demographic Studies compared the body mass indexes of women in western Europe and found that French women had the lowest average body mass index, at 23.2. British women had the highest average at 26.2, which was above the normal range considered healthy: 18.5 – 24.9. Nowhere in Western Europe does the body mass promoted by fashion corresponds to the woman in the street.

Under-age is defined as 16. Brands such as Kering (Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Alexander McQueen, Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Jacobs, Thomas Pink) and LVMH (Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Givenchy, Fendi, Marc Jacobs) will be off limits for professional models under the age of 16; moreover, anyone under 18 must at all times be accompanied by a legal guardian and cannot consume alcohol.

The fashion industry has an appalling reputation for the promotion of unhealthy body images, as well as the maltreatment of their employees. In recent years, famous models have come out to shame the industry by revealing torturous diets, the wide use of laxatives, and chronic anorexia. Moreover, it was not infrequent for fashion houses to employ models as young as 14 or 15.