Milan fashion diary — a boring account
of the boring life led by fashion models

Italy's top fashion houses have signed an "anti-anorexia" manifesto with the government, promising to employ only healthy models. Maddy Savage of BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat and producer Chi Chi Izundu see how the new regime is going at Milan Fashion Week.

We're gradually getting our heads around 'Italian time'. Most of the fashion shows start up to an hour late. The models spend ages just waiting around.

But as we have discovered, being bored doesn't encourage them to eat. Cappuccino and cigarettes are on order throughout though.

We spent some time with 17-year-old Julie from the Czech Republic. Like many of the models here, she's sharing an apartment with six other girls. It's in a dark alley in a part of town we didn't find too friendly.

A fellow catwalk girl, Star, says Julie is great to share with.

"Of course we have our fights - a bunch of female models in an apartment is never a good idea, but we make it work," she says.

And Julie does eat, apparently. Another friend backed up her claims she ate tirimasu, lemon sorbet and ice cream all in the same day once. The flat is full of cake, cheese and popcorn. But for all her talking of food, we don't spot Julie munching on much. Backstage, she told us she'd had some appetisers for lunch and it was sushi for dinner.

Towards the end of the day it was confession time. Julie used to be anorexic. Her mum helped her through it. She's never seen a doctor.

As we leave, her flatmate calls out: "Julie is so thin, just look at her ribcage."

Julie says she doesn't know her Body Mass Index or even her weight because she never checks.

"I do walk a lot, we have 10 castings a day... so that helps to keep skinny," she says.

Arguments about size zero models have been raging in London and New York. But has anything on the catwalk really changed?

The Italian manifesto was supposed to be binding: agencies and designers linked to them would send all their models to get checked out by doctors. They'd promote a "healthy, sunny, generous Mediterranean beauty".

Okay, so there were no plans for a full-on ban on super-skinnies like in Madrid, but Body Mass Index (BMI) would be taken into account when hiring models.

Italy seemed a step ahead as other countries were scrambling to come up with last-minute guidelines.

The plans still looked good on Saturday when we arrived to watch the first show — a "plus-size" collection by Elena Miro.

Gorgeous, voluptuous Italian models got huge cheers.

The goodie bags were stuffed with chocolates, not the slimming pills found in some in New York.

The clothes included very wearable shift dresses and coats, with high-waist leather belts to flatter a fuller figure.

Italy's Minister for Youth Policies, Giovanna Melandri, gave a speech recognising models as key icons for young girls, and promising to police the fashion houses to make sure they were sticking to the manifesto.

Backstage the models told a different story. We couldn't find a single one who'd been to see a doctor beforehand.

Some knew their BMI was below the 18.5 cut-off imposed in Spain. Others spoke of friends with severe anorexia, making themselves sick daily and living on salad.

Many thought the guidelines were a good idea, but few thought they would really work. Industry self-regulation was viewed by most as synonymous with media and government hype about vague promises.

Around 2 p.m. we went to get some lunch. The counters in both cafes were bare; all the sandwiches had sold out in the first five minutes apparently and they weren't expecting any more. We revisited one of our models.

She said she'd had some sweets for lunch because there wasn't much else around.

Apart from an old man's bar across the road, the nearest cafe was a 15-minute walk away. We were the only ones in there.
______