An ad for Celine, a fashion brand, seen in The Sunday Times Style magazine on 16 April 2023, featured a female model pictured from the side. The model was depicted lying on the ground and leaning back on her elbows, wearing shorts and a lace jacket that was hanging open, leaving her midriff exposed.
Two complainants, who believed the featured model appeared unhealthily thin, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible.
Celine SA said that their internal procedures included a range of measures to ensure that their ads did not depict underweight models. As well as not casting models who fell beneath standard international sizes, they sought medical supervision at six-month intervals to ensure the good health of all working models.
They held evidence demonstrating that the featured model’s BMI fell within a healthy range. In the image, she wore a UK size eight jacket with UK size ten shorts. Her clothing had not been adjusted on set, nor had the image been digitally altered. Because they regarded those sizes as standard, they believed it would be incorrect to suggest that the model’s natural slimness was unhealthy.In relation to the image itself, they stated that the model’s pose was that of someone comfortably reclining in the sun and it did not unduly emphasise her slimness, nor draw particular focus to any part of her body. While the model was leaning back on her elbows, she did not look overly stretched, but instead appeared natural and comfortable. Her head was turned in the direction of the camera and was not drooped or resting on her shoulder; she was not slumped. Rather than giving any indication of protruding bones, the model’s exposed stomach and lower chest looked well-toned and healthy.
They emphasised their view that the model’s body did not appear to be out of proportion. While her jacket, which had shoulder pads, covered her collarbones and arms, it was clear that her upper body was not overly angular. In addition, they said that the visible portion of the model’s face did not look gaunt, nor did she look lethargic. They said that consumers would recognise that the model was pouting with slightly parted lips, but also that, in light of the oversized sunglasses covering her face and eyes, her facial expression was ambiguous. In addition, the sunglasses did not make her head appear smaller, and the small region of her neck not obscured by hair appeared healthy and in proportion. While the model’s chunky belt contrasted with her exposed stomach, her waist did not appear excessively slender, and her shorts fit snugly around her thighs. They said that the model’s hand did not exhibit any signs of boniness, and that, in particular, the protrusion of her wrist bone was not unnaturally prominent. They highlighted that because her jacket was hanging open, part of the model’s bra could be seen. They stated that the prominence of her cleavage was not typical of someone who was unhealthily thin.
Celine SA understood that previous Upheld ASA rulings had identified irregular bodily proportions, facial gauntness, abnormally narrow waists, excessively thin limbs and protruding bones as features likely to indicate that models were unhealthily thin. Because they believed the ad did not include any of those features, they believed it was more aligned with ads previously Not Upheld under the challenge that they depicted unhealthily thin models.
Celine SA said they had sought an independent and objective view from a GP regarding whether the model appeared unhealthily thin, based solely on the image. The GP supported Celine SA’s view that the model appeared to be slim but not unhealthily thin, and that her face did not look gaunt. They also stated that, overall, the model’s normal musculature and bodily proportions meant she appeared to be a healthy weight. They highlighted the absence of excess fluid build-up around the model’s limbs and extremities, as well as the absence of hair loss. While they acknowledged that the model’s waist appeared slim, they felt that the image’s side-on perspective might have exaggerated her slenderness.
The Sunday Times Style magazine said they had no comment to make and would await the outcome of the ASA’s investigation. They confirmed that they had received no complaints about the ad.
The model was depicted leaning on her elbows with her back raised above the ground. She wore a chunky belt, the thickness of which stood in strong contrast to that of her stomach. The ASA considered that styling and her pose, which stretched out her torso, drew particular attention to the very narrow silhouette of her exposed midriff and waist, as well as to their angular intersection.
We understood the model was wearing UK size 10 shorts and that she had a healthy BMI. We also acknowledged the GP’s opinion. However, the ad’s audience did not have information about the model’s clothing size or BMI, and would not view the model’s appearance from the same perspective as a medical professional.
Because the pose and styling strongly emphasised the model’s narrow waist, we considered the ad gave the impression that the model was unhealthily thin and concluded it was irresponsible.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.3 (Responsible advertising).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Celine SA to ensure that the images in their ads were prepared responsibly and did not portray models as being unhealthily thin.