The Danish Fashion Ethical Charter seeks to ensure the well-being of employees in the Danish fashion industry and to contribute to the creation of relevant and appropriate information about eating disorders and about the beauty and body ideals the fashion industry is a part of creating. This includes, for example, models, editors, stylists, photographers, make-up artists and designers, all of whom play a role in establishing those ideals.
Danish Fashion Ethical Charter will also help raise awareness and influence attitudes in the fashion industry as well as in the media and in society in general, which is why the charter contains a number of measures and rules signatories must adhere to.
The Danish Fashion Ethical Charter was founded in 2007 by Global Fashion Agenda (formerly Danish Fashion Institute) in collaboration with the Danish Association against Eating Disorders and Self-harm. Previously, the purpose of the charter was exclusively to ensure the well-being of Danish models and to contribute to the creation of valuable information about eating disorders and the body ideals the fashion industry helps generate. Initially, the charter represented a plea to the industry, but various high-profile cases led to its expansion in 2013 to include specific rules related to age, a healthy diet and wages. In 2015 the charter entered into a new phase when the Danish fashion industry was given the opportunity to actively sign and apply the charter. A steering committee for the Danish Fashion Ethical Charter was also established to continue the work initiated just over 10 years ago. In 2017 the committee launched the world’s first health check for models and in 2018 two new values were added to the charter. Moreover, the charter now encompasses the entire Danish fashion industry, though the rules continue to primarily focus on Danish models.
Danish Fashion Ethical Charter focuses on five core values involving accountability, compassionate respect and health:
Danish Fashion Ethical Charter consists of four general rules specifically related to models:
1. Age limit
Models must be at least 16 years of age in order to work.
Models who are 15 years of age can be given dispensation to work if accompanied by an adult. Models under 15 can only work with children’s and teenage clothing and likewise must be accompanied by an adult (which the agency arranges). The charter also refers to the Danish Working Environment Act.
2. Healthy diet
Clients (fashion companies, photographers, magazines, ad agencies and others) commit to serving models nutritious and healthy food at jobs that last more than two hours.
Models must receive monetary payment for their work. Dispensation from the obligation to pay wages is only possible in agreement with the model for work done for educational institutions, student projects, charities and non-commercial publications (i.e. publications without advertising revenues or sales).
Note on wages: Agreements concerning specific wages and conditions are made between the model agency/the model and the client and between the model agency and the model. Greater transparency and assurance of the individual model’s rights are required in this connection.
4. Health check
Many people, especially the young, struggle to achieve unrealistically thin body ideals and the occurrence of serious eating disorders is on the rise, which is why the type of beauty and body ideals the fashion industry creates is highly important. As a result the charter also focuses on doing health checks for models based on all forms of eating disorders.
The steering committee of the Danish Fashion Ethical Charter introduced and completed a successful pilot project in 2017 on health checks for models. The project resulted in the establishment of the following system:
The health check, to be carried out by the Danish Association against Eating Disorders and Self-harm, will be conducted by professional staff and involve an approximately 90-minute, semi-structured interview using the Eating Disorder Examination, an internationally recognised method for diagnosing eating disorders. The assessment will determine whether and to what extent a model is at risk of or meets the criteria for an eating disorder. The following criteria will be used and result in the following steps being taken:
Every time a model undergoes a health check, a record of the visit is documented that contains the results. The agency will receive notice from the Danish Association against Eating Disorders and Self-harm that the model has undergone a health check and be told the results.
In the event that the model disagrees with the assessment, a second professional assessment can of course be conducted elsewhere but at the expense of the agency. If the two assessments are contradictory, a third assessment by an impartial party is required that will be covered by pooled funding (described below under ‘Funding’).
Who will be assessed?
The aim of the pilot project was to assess all models who are or turn 16 in 2017. The health check project was then reviewed, with input from models, agencies, parents and the charter’s steering committee.
After a successful pilot project it was decided to continue health checks using the 2017 pilot project method. Thereby following the original plan with the goal to assess models every other year until they turn 20:
In addition, the steering committee of the Danish Fashion Ethical Charter will recommend to agencies that a model (regardless of age) undergoes a health check if the committee deems there is sufficient reason for serious concern due to the model’s behaviour or body measurements. The dialogue between the committee and the agency will take place in the strictest confidence. The recommendation is well-intentioned and not meant as a criticism or as coercion. If the agency and the model (and possibly the parents) consider the concern justified, the model can undergo a health check paid for by pooled funding to mitigate the cost burden on the model agency. If the model agency is seriously concerned about a model, it can also recommend that the model (regardless of age) undergoes a health check to be paid for by pooled funding.
The Danish healthcare system is currently unable to offer a uniform, nationwide health check focusing on eating disorders, which is why, until politicians are willing to help the industry, the steering committee, together with the major model agencies in Denmark, has developed the following private-sector solution.
The 2017 pilot project on health checks for 16-year-olds was expected to cost about DKK 200,000, including funding for discussion/support groups. If the project continues as planned in 2018 and beyond, the cost will increase concurrently with the number of models undergoing a health check. Each health check will be settled between the Danish Association against Eating Disorders and Self-harm and the model agency. To mitigate the costs model agencies incur, model agencies whose models undergo a health check will impose a “health check fee” of DKK 75.00 on all customer invoices, making the fashion industry instrumental in funding the health check.
The steering committee of the Danish Fashion Ethical Charter also encourages all signatories to contribute annually an amount of their choice. The money will be used to finance, for example, exceptional health checks of models outside the target age group, follow-up interviews and discussion/support groups. Payment is voluntary.
Anyone can commit to Danish Fashion Ethical Charter by signing it. The aim is to establish broad backing from the fashion industry’s relevant stakeholders and companies (such as model agencies, fashion companies, magazines, industry organisations, associations, photographers, ad agencies, PR agencies and trade fairs).
Copenhagen Fashion Week receives and files signed agreements. Signatories receive the Danish Fashion Ethical Charter logo pack for use on, for instance the signatories’ own website, materials and campaigns, as long as the charter’s rules are adhered to.
The names of signatories are listed on the website danishfashionethicalcharter.com.
In addition fashion companies and other players (magazines, PR agencies, stores, agencies) who wish to participate with a show, an event or as a supplier during Copenhagen Fashion Week are required to sign the Danish Fashion Ethical Charter to be part of the official fashion week programme.