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Fashion Industry Takes Its Toll on Young Models

As they stride down the catwalk with their long, slender legs, they seem almost perfect and in a way untouchable, these young women who will be showing off the creations of// the top couturiers during the New York Fashion Week.

But now these much-admired models who are participating in the fashion week that started Friday - for many years icons for millions of women - are having a critical eye cast on them.

"How thin is too thin - and how thin is potentially fatal?" is the question on many lips.

The death from anorexia of Brazilian supermodel Ana Carolina Reston at the age of 21 has caused consternation in the fashion world.

Just as sad was the case of Luisel Ramos, who broke down with heart failure at the age of 22 during a show in Montevideo, after she had recently lost a full 12 kg.

In Italy and Spain measures have been taken to keep over-thin models off the ramp, and the theme has become a hot topic in the US fashion industry.

The industry does not want young women to starve themselves to become a "parade of skeletons", as Italian designer Valentino Garavani has put it.

Three weeks before the New York Fashion Week, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), which represents 280 influential designers and is headed by Diane von Fuerstenberg, published a set of guidelines.

There has been long discussion ahead of this "health initiative" on whether there should be a ban on underweight models with a Body Mass Index of under 18. The BMI is calculated by dividing the mass of the body in kilograms by the square of the height in metres.

The World Health Organisation regards a BMI of under 18.5 as indicating underweight.

But the CFDA in the end decided not to press the issue, saying the intention was not to impose controls but to raise consciousness over the issue.

Some models were by nature thin, while eating disorders were
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