Opening a magazine to find images of unusually slim women is no surprise. But a complaint to the UK’s independent regulator for advertising has led to one image from fashion label Yves Saint Laurent being banned for depicting a women deemed to look “unhealthy” because of her extreme thinness.
The ban is the result of a set of voluntary codes to which the advertising industry in the UK adheres. Across the channel, France in April passed a law banning the employment of too-thin models, but few countries are yet to criminalize the practice.
The Yves Saint Laurent image shows a women lying along the curved corner of a room. Part of her chest is exposed and her ribs clearly visible. Her legs, stretching away and clad in stockings and platform shoes, seem about the same diameter above the knee as below it.
The image, which was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority on Wednesday (June 3), appeared in Elle Magazine, where it was spotted by a reader who alerted the ASA. According to the ruling issued by the regulator, Elle told the ASA it had no comment on the decision and Yves Saint Laurent told the ASA it didn’t agree the model was unhealthily thin.
ASA spokesman Matt Wilston tells Quartz that the agency’s objection was not to the model herself. “However the techniques used in the YSL ad, such as the lighting and styling, made the model look unhealthy and was therefore irresponsible,” he says. Quartz has reached out to YSL, which declined to comment.
Wilston says the regulator had ruled before against advertisements depicting women so thin as to appear unhealthy, including in a 2011 ad for Drop Dead Clothing and in one in December last year by Urban Outfitters.
The argument is often made that thin models encourage people, especially women and especially young women, to put themselves in danger by trying to achieve ever-lower weights. News emerged this morning that hospital admissions for eating disorders in young people almost doubled in the UK between 2011 and 2014.