A magazine ad for fashion brand Max Mara has been banned for including a model who appeared to be unhealthily thin.

The ad for Sportmax, a subsidiary label of Max Mara, seen in The Sunday Times Style magazine on February 28, featured a female model pictured from the side and wearing a long-sleeved ankle length black dress with boots.

Three readers, who believed the model was unhealthily thin, complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that the ad was irresponsible.

Max Mara said it did not agree that the model was unhealthily thin or that the ad was irresponsible.

It said the model was well known and chosen for her particular beauty and “extraordinary aspect”, adding that she took part in fashion shows in Paris where models who were unhealthily thin had not been allowed on the runway since 2017.

Max Mara provided two other images of the same model which they said showed she was healthy, with a normal appearance. They said the image communicated a particular style and clothing choice but had nothing to do with food choices and would not lead people to serious eating disorders.

The Sunday Times Style magazine said it had no comment and would await the outcome of the ASA’s investigation. It confirmed it had received no complaints about the ad.

The ASA said the model was photographed from the side, which drew attention to the shape of her body and highlighted her very thin frame and the protrusion of her hip bone which was visible through the fabric.

Max Mara Sportmax model (ASA/PA)

The ASA said: “We also considered that the contrast of the ad’s background lighting, which had a sepia tone, against the black dress, further accentuated the silhouette of her frame and the model’s sombre facial expression and posture gave her a gaunt appearance. We therefore considered that she appeared unhealthily thin.

“For those reasons we considered that the model appeared underweight and therefore concluded that the ad was irresponsible.”

The ASA ruled that the ad must not appear again, adding: “We told Max Mara to ensure that the images in their ads were prepared responsibly.”