Can international governmental legislation set new precedents for the fashion industry?

Can international governmental legislation set new precedents for the fashion industry?


CNC’s Devon Armogeda explores how international governments are imposing regulations and legislation to enforce an ethical agenda across the wider fashion industry.


The fashion industry’s dichotomy of creating surrealist escape tunnels into luxurious lifestyles is in sharp juxtaposition to the environmentally unsustainable practices and body mutation practices that participants of the 21st century undergo to remain in vogue. Governments are beginning to step in, through the implementation of rules and regulations to set a different precedent.


Underage Models


France progressively passed a two-part law in 2017, aimed at targeting “unrealistic body images” and eating disorders. Firstly, by mandating a doctor’s certificate confirming the overall health of the model and a body mass index (BMI) that sits within a healthy range, when working in the country. Secondly, any photoshopped images by law must be labeled indicating the potential body mutation – refusing to adhere to the law could result in a fine of €37,500 and jail time. 



That was 2017, what progress have we made since? 


In June 2021, Norway continued the momentum, passing landslide legislation combating unrealistic beauty standards on social media accounts across Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok. If the content produced is a paid promotion social media influencers have to declare that photographic modification has taken place. Adjustments in lip enhancements, waist tightening, muscle tonnage, or any form of body modification, without specification,  could result in a fine created by Norway’s Ministry of Children and Family Affairs. Fashion has a profound effect on young people’s body image and photoshopping media both in magazines and in social media can be detrimental for mental health and form self-deprecating behavioural patterns. The government hopes that by passing this legislation it will “reduce body pressure” amongst the young people most affected. 



Environmental Impact


Sweden, in 2020, passed a new regulation on toxic chemicals used throughout the production process of garments and footwear. Products produced either in Sweden or imported to the country with rubber, polyvinyl chloride, polyurethane, or hosting chemicals honing carcinogenic, mutagenic, or devastating reproductive health hazards will be taxed €3.70 per kilogram of the product’s total weight. 



The Environmental Audit Committee (2019) report created in England highlights the shortcomings of the toxicity emanating from the fashion industry plus how this correlates to the death of our eco-systems. The report debates the idea of replicating Sweden’s tax system to combat overconsumption, while also touching on human rights violations conducted in sweatshops overseas, and the cyclical issue of microfibers from garments entering our oceans and further tampering with mother nature’s natural balance.


Is long-term change possible?


Additionally, France and Switzerland also conducted their own reports with similar points of interest, to lessen the environmental impact fashion has on our planet. Sustainable and environmentally friendly practices have been rampant in the news for years now. Now with these topics being commonplace, governments are stepping in to readjust the shortcomings of this industry, to shape a better and greener future.



Moving forward, it is unclear how individual pieces of government legislation will affect the fashion industry, whether there will be a long-term impact on the environment or whether individual country standards will become industry wide standards – or whether pockets of new policy will be created and initial waves of change will dissipate to ripples. 


By Devon Armogeda, BA (Hons) Fashion Communication


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