CFDA Health Initiative

CFDA formed a health initiative to address what has become a global fashion issue: the overwhelming concern about whether some models are unhealthily thin, and whether or not to impose restrictions in such cases.


In January 2007, the CFDA formed a health initiative to address what has become a global fashion issue: the overwhelming concern about whether some models are unhealthily thin, and whether or not to impose restrictions in such cases.

Designers share a responsibility to protect women, and very young girls in particular, within the business, sending the message that beauty is health. While some models are naturally tall and thin and their appearance is a result of many factors, including genetics, youth, nutritional food, and exercise, other models have or develop eating disorders. Although we cannot fully assume responsibility for an issue that is as complex as eating disorders and that occurs in many walks of life, the fashion industry can begin a campaign of awareness and create an atmosphere that supports the well-being of these young women.

Working in partnership with the fashion industry, medical experts, nutritionists, and fitness trainers, the CFDA formed a committee to propose a series of positive steps designed to promote wellness and a healthier working environment. We recognize that change will take time and are committed to industry-specific educational efforts, awareness programs, support systems, and evaluation and treatment options that advance our recommendations.


  • Educate the industry to identify the early warning signs in an individual at risk of developing an eating disorder.
  • Models who are identified as having an eating disorder should be required to seek professional help, and models who are receiving professional help for an eating disorder should not continue modeling without that professional’s approval.
  • Develop workshops for the industry (including designers, agents, editors, and models and their families) on the nature of eating disorders, how they arise, how we identify and treat them, and complications that may arise if left untreated.
  • Support the well-being of younger individuals by not hiring models under the age of sixteen for runway shows; not allowing models under the age of eighteen to work past midnight at fittings or shoots; and providing regular breaks and rest. (Consult the applicable labor laws found at when working with models under sixteen.)
  • Supply healthy meals, snacks, and water backstage and at shoots and provide nutrition and fitness education.

The CFDA Health Initiative is about awareness and education, not policing. Therefore, the committee does not recommend that models get a doctor’s physical examination to assess their health or body-mass index to be permitted to work. Eating disorders are emotional disorders that have psychological, behavioral, social, and physical manifestations, of which body weight is only one.

The CFDA Health Initiative is committed to the notion of a healthy mind in a healthy body, and there cannot be one without the other. The industry is determined to foster a balanced approach to nutrition, recreation, exercise, work, and relationships.



September 2014 – The CFDA partners with farm to counter restaurant Dig Inn to provide heavily discounted backstage catering for all CFDA members. Dig Inn also provided nourishment for the 2014 Health Initiative Panel discussion, at Donna Karan’s NYC oasis Urban Zen. The panel included:

Editor in Chief of Self Magazine, Joyce Chang

International Yoga Teacher, Colleen Saidman Yee

Executive Director of the David Lynch Foundation, Bob Roth

Dr. Woody Merrell, MD

Top Model, Kiara Karabuku 


May 2012 – The Health Initiative, a pact between the 19 international Editors of Vogue to encourage a healthier approach to body image within the industry, was announced. The Health Initiative will build on the successful work which the Council of Fashion Designers of America with the support of American Vogue in the US and the British Fashion Council in the UK have already begun.


February 2012 – During New York Fashion Week, the Health Initiative hosted  “A Well- Balanced Life” aimed at fostering an environment in the fashion industry to help models and all of us find that balance.


June 2011 – CFDA President Diane von Furstenberg writes open letter to industry stating that to ensure she doesn’t hire any models under 16, that she will begin asking for identification from all models booked for her shows.


May 2011 – Meeting with Vogue China representatives to discuss Health Initiative.


January 2011 – Creation of the CFDA Health Initiative Ambassador program with DNA Model Management and IMG Models. The Ambassador program identifies experienced models to serve as mentors to their younger peers. Top model Stella Tennant, represented by DNA, was the program’s inaugural Ambassador as mentors to their younger peers.


December 2010 – The CFDA hosted a breakfast meeting for top fashion show producers to discuss the initiative and guidelines.


March 2010 – Health Initiative supporters Michael Kors, Natalia Vodianova and Anna Wintour participate in a Harvard Business School panel discussion about “Health Matters: Weight and Wellness in the World of Fashion,” moderated by Dr. David Herzog.


February 2010 – During New York Fashion Week, the Health Initiative hosted “The Beauty of Health: Resizing the Sample Size,” a panel discussion about the weight and age issues of models. Participants included David Bonnouvrier, Tonne Goodman, Doutzen Kroes, Aerin Lauder, Zac Posen, and James Scully, as well as moderator Dr. David Herzog, an eating disorder specialist. The event was hosted by MAC & Milk at Milk Studios.


January 2010  – The CFDA hosted an intimate breakfast for top modeling agency owners and agents to discuss the Initiative, their concerns, and how best to pursue the Initiative’s goals and encourage the industry to follow the guidelines.


September 2009 – “Model Foods for the Model Life” nutritional tip cards, featuring pointers from nutritionist Joy Bauer, were distributed during Fashion Week at the Tents in Bryant Park and at the MAC at Milk venue, modeling agencies, and other venues.


September 2009 – The CFDA hosted a breakfast for top stylists, providing a forum to discuss the central issues of the Initiative and possible steps each facet of the industry can take.


February 2009 – A limited-edition collection of Health is Beauty fashion items designed by CFDA members were sold at a lobby booth at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in a space generously donated by IMG and designed by Calvin Klein, Inc. The collection included a CFDA President Diane von Furstenberg t-shirt, Donna Karan yoga mat by, Michael Kors tote bag, Patrick Robinson for Gap cosmetic case, and Talbots scarf. All proceeds from the sale of these items, and others like it, benefited the CFDA Foundation, Inc., and its efforts to further the goals of the Health Initiative.


December 2008 – The CFDA hosted an intimate breakfast for top casting directors to discuss the Initiative, their concerns, and how best to pursue the Initiative’s goals and encourage the industry to follow the guidelines.


September 2008 – During Fashion Week, IMG kindly provided the Initiative with a lobby booth at the Bryant Park tents to conduct a signature drive. More than 1,500 fashion designers, retailers, stylists, editors and others put their name to paper saying they would honor the Health Initiative Guidelines.


June 2008 – The CFDA hosted “The Beauty of Health: How the Fashion Industry Can Make a Difference.” The standing-room-only discussion featured Diane von Furstenberg, designer Michael Kors, and model Coco Rocha discussing their views on the importance of the guidelines, how the issue has evolved, and their own personal experiences with the issue. The event was underwritten by Condé Nast Publications and the Tharanco Group.


April 2007 – The CFDA and Condé Nast Publications hosted a breakfast workshop for members across the fashion community—agents, designers, stylists, producers, and models—to discuss the unique concerns and pressures of the industry and to develop strategies for addressing potential problems.


February 2007 – Condé Nast Publications and the CFDA hosted “Beauty and Health in the Fashion Industry” panel discussion in the Bryant Park tents during the Fall fashion shows. More than 300 guests attended to hear the committee discuss the recommendations and to ask questions during an open Q&A session.


January, 2007 – The CFDA formed The CFDA Health Initiative to address what had become a global fashion issue: the overwhelming concern about whether some models are unhealthily thin, and whether or not to impose restrictions in such cases. The committee of experts included Renfrew Center Director Dr. Susan Ice, fitness instructor, David Kirsch, nutritionist Joy Bauer, model Natalia Vodianova, KCD Creative Director Nian Fish, and CFDA President Diane von Furstenberg, and Executive Director Steven Kolb. The committee issued the CFDA Health Initiative Recommendations (see attached), which were distributed to the press and fashion industry internationally.


CFDA President Diane von Furstenberg includes the CFDA Health Initiative recommendations in her twice-annual fashion industry-wide mailing that precedes the New York fashion shows.



Members of the fashion industry – modeling agents, designers, magazine editors, stylists, and models themselves – are on the front line with regard to early recognition of eating disorders in our community. Identifying and treating eating disorders early can lead to improved outcomes. Yet early detection of eating disorders can be challenged by the fact that eating disorder symptoms often involve private behaviors or secret thoughts and beliefs that are not apparent from the outside. Below, we list a number of the more common warning signs. While alone, none of the warning signs listed below indicates a definite eating disorder, each of these behaviors and attitudes, particularly in combination, may warrant clinical attention.

• Drastic change in eating or exercise patterns
• Skipping meals; eating very little; denying hunger
• Avoiding situations that involve food or eating
• Unusual food rituals or behaviors (cutting food into little pieces, pushing food around on plate without eating it, hiding food in napkin)
• Adherence to a very strict diet or rules about food/eating
• Obsessive counting of calories, carbohydrates, or fat grams
• Regularly eating large amounts of food without weight gain
• Tendency to go to the bathroom after eating
• Hiding food; eating in secret
• Extreme fears of gaining weight
• Severe dissatisfaction with body weight, shape or appearance
• Rapid weight loss
• Using extreme measures to lose weight (e.g., laxatives, diet pills, diuretics)
• Compulsive or driven exercise; inflexible exercise routine
• Talking about weight, shape, and/or food all the time
• Irritability, moodiness , depression
• Withdrawing from friends and/or activities
• Cuts and calluses on the back of the hands
• Dental enamel problems
• Wearing loose-fitting clothing to conceal weight loss
• Irregular or absent menstrual cycles
• Sensitivity to the cold

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