So, welcome back to the soapbox it has been a while, so excuse us while we break out of our zen state, but it is almost fashion week and that means the campaign trail and war on models is about to start and we have to get ready.
The last 10 days saw the release of a new campaign trying to reconcile body image and fashion and essentially encouraging them to be friends again. (This post may end up being longer than anticipated, so we suggest some tea and a snack to accompany it).
The campaign I want to discuss, is the Women Equalities Party new campaign that was launched in conjunction with/supported by Caryn Frankly (fashion legend) and reaffirmed by Rosie Nelson (straight size model and body image campaigner) and Jada Sezer (plus size fashion model @models 1 curve).
Here – in this highly waffly and long post, we break down the campaign – its plus points and minus points…
Launched to the press in this weekend’s Guardian…
‘Sophie Walker, the WEP leader, plans to ask the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, to withdraw funding for next year’s fashion week if the campaign’s key demands are not in place by then.’
(Speaking even as someone who loves diversity and body image equality – yes you have to have a carrot / stick situation but requesting to jeopardise our fashion industry seems a little reckless and ill thought through. Anyone looking at this season’s schedule will note several brands absence from the list and if like me you have been covering LFW for over a decade you will be able to reel of a list of favourites who are no longer here in London or anywhere at all). If anything shouldn’t we be offering designers an incentive – like extra funding for following through – rather than punishment?)
‘(Sophie) will also ask Maria Miller, chair of the Women and Equalities Commission, to hold a public hearing in which fashion designers will be asked why their clothes are based on “an unattainable level of thinness in women”, which Walker believes is contributing to a crisis in public health with an economic impact of £1.3bn a year.’
(This is interesting. I did have this discussion recently – the chicken and egg. But what we have remember that the industry has been around for a very long time and the trend has been for a size 6/8 girl. Therefore they are most in supply and to an extent the demand here follows the supply. Added to that, that castings happen last minute/late in the day but samples have been in production for months and you need models who weight is equally proportioned and distributed – not the case in plus size models as we all know as we get bigger our weight distributes differently – sometimes drastically. There is of course the old coat hanger argument here too. The truth is, although it started in the 80’s with the big super models. The primary focus and desire of most designers is to show the clothes and a moving form, but the models aren’t and shouldn’t be the focus. Yes we have a few famous girls but really the girls should disappear and the clothing speak for themselves, walking coat hangers has often been the insulting term bartered about, but there is some element of that. That is why models tend to have a very sullen, blank expression on the catwalk, they aren’t suppose to be drawing you into them, just the clothes. Of course the industry pushes what is essentially an unobtainable level of thinness but we’re not sure what the discussion will achieve, other than highlighting the above points we’ve already stated).
The campaign calls for models whose BMI is below 18.5 to be seen by a medical professional from an accredited list, who will judge whether they are well enough to be employed by a modelling agency. Similar legislation exists in France, Spain, Italy and Israel.
(This seems relatively fair. But will this then apply for the other end of the spectrum? As a whole we all know that we don’t believe in BMI as an accurate measure, but surely it should be working both ways? We hate the idea of victimisation at all ends of the spectrum and really that is what BMI historically does).
Campaigners are also asking that fashion designers showing at LFW commit to including at least two sample sizes in every range, one of which must be a UK size 12 or above.
(I actually think this is a pretty easy one to implement and let’s face it there will be very few brands who are putting into production who wont be doing at least 3 sizes anyway and while I know lots of you will be saying – wait what just a size 12, that is nothing. This really is a baby step situation and about more than plus size representation. The idea of actual plus size on a mainstream catwalk, is as a regular thing, light years away. But it is these baby steps that might just help to start rebalance beauty standards)
Additional proposals include fashion magazines committing to at least one piece in each issue featuring plus-size models. WEP is also demanding that body image awareness become a compulsory part of personal, social and health education, with a focus on media depictions of beauty and extra training for teachers.
(Yes talk about this in schools. Probably the most important part of this proposal – and maybe the only piece that stands a strong chance of being adhered too. It is amazing that we don’t teach kids about body image. That is almost a bit terrifying in an increasingly digitised age, with filters and social platforms demanding so much of our younger generations, this is the most important subject to be teaching.
As for proposal for more mags to commit to featuring plus size models. Again it will come down to what constitutes plus size, so that kind of opens a whole different pandora’s box!)
WEP will also launch an interactive social media campaign, #NoSizeFitsAll, based on the statistic that one in five women cut the labels out of their clothes to conceal their size. A photoshoot will feature new designers Isatu Harrison and her line, Izelia, and Katie Pope of Pope London, both of whose work will be modelled by a diverse group of women.
Like all campaigns of this nature, there are +ve and -ve points.
Anything that reduces the obsession with thin as the only body type young women feel is acceptable is undoubtably positive as it is about diversity at its core. But then there will always be those who wonder, how much is enough change? Where is the line on diversity? What body size means that we have hit our quote – what is plus size. In other words. This is a good starting point but the door being opened has a lot behind it that no one knows the answer too… Welcome LFW!
So use the # and see what people are saying!
(bold/italics – quotes from the Guardian)