Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Fashion Week Plea: Let's keep it diverse

I'm really excited to see what the catwalks of next month will bring us for SS/12. However, I'm also worried that they will not offer the viewer a wide enough look at modelling talent today. So many non-white models are overlooked once the booker has reached their 'ethnic quota' for a show (which is usually a grand total of two or three), with Paris and Milan being particularly slow on the uptake regarding the supposedly racially equal society we live in.

Equally, we've spent years staring at models that fit the 'waif chic' bill - boyish, no curves, borderline eating disorder, concave facial features. I would love to see more women who at least have their BMI in the 'healthy' range and don't have a protruding ribcage. Time and time again we are given the results of surveys in the media which prove that the average woman is a size 14-16 and that the average man does not find a size 0 attractive, yet the fashion industry disregards this and works on miniscule sample sizes. I know that fashion designers might find skinny girls to be their 'ideal', but it's unattainable to most of us, and that includes the customers. We did not have the same problem with the early supermodels, who were thin but not unhealthy. So why can't we go back to those days?

I would love to see a more honest portrayal of women on the catwalk, and a celebration of the beauty which surrounds us.

Hayley Morley on the catwalk for Mark Fast in 2010 [from 2Medusa]. Fast's adoption of the more buxom female form horrified many fashion purists but delighted campaigners for more representative models. The knitwear that Fast makes is clever, intricate and desirable, and it clings to curves in an elegant way.

The it-girl for 'plus size' models, Crystal Renn (who is actually a former anorexic) - I hate that term, 'plus size' because it insinuates that size 12 women should need their own special department. Obviously in modelling, things are different, but now society has taken on this terminology and made those over a size 8 feel 'plus size'. Crystal Renn has seen both sides of the spectrum but looks far better with meat on her bones. [Image from Fashion Gone Rogue].

Here's Renn again [from SkinnyvsCurvy], looking voluptuous for a shoot by Harper's Bazaar Australia. If you saw this woman on a beach, would you honestly think she was overweight? Probably not. Renn is one of the few to be accepted by the fashion world, yet many of her editorial shoots seem to fall into the category of tokenism. I hope she stays in modelling and continues to forge a great career.

This month sees size 14 Robin Lawley gracing a feature in Vogue Australia. She oozes femininity and she suits these clothes - why can't we see more like this, instead of watching a woman wearing low-slung trousers that fall off her non-existent hips?

Here's Hayley Morley again, strutting her stuff [taken from the Guardian Online].

The model Nyasha brings the latest issue of Love magazine to life. Black models rarely feature on the cover of Western publications, which is frustrating for consumers who want diversity. Publishing executives claim that white models sell more copies, which was grossly proved wrong when Vogue Italia released its Black Issue, the only edition in history to be reprinted due to excessive demand.

The latest Estee Lauder campaign is an example of good advertising practice and a more accurate portrayal of make-up consumers and their different ethnic origins. The three women, Joan Smalls, Constance Jablonski and Liu Wen, all look beautiful. [Image from Fashion Gone Rogue].

Chanel Iman in an advert for DKNY's Be Delicious perfume. The model herself has called for greater racial diversity in fashion. [Taken from Fashion Gone Rogue].

Lakshmi Menon is one of the few models who has crossed over from India to mainstream fashion, and she is seen here in a photoshoot for Dazed and Confused magazine. Although Mumbai's Fashion Week is growing ever popular and Vogue India is well established, India is still largely ignored in terms of modelling talent on Western catwalks. [Image from Fashion Gone Rogue].

The beautiful Jourdan Dunn, one of Britain's best young models who is also a mother to a young son. She was discovered whilst shopping in Primark, before rising to international fame. Women such as Dunn should be hailed as inspirational to young Brits, but she is one of a small minority in a sea of identikit white models and is often overlooked. I really think she could be the next Naomi Campbell (but without the phone-throwing). [Image taken from Fashion Gone Rogue, originally featured in Vogue Paris, August 2011].

ID Magazine shows us how it should be done, with this cover for the Pre-Fall Issue, 2009. L-R: Chanel Iman, Sessilee Lopez, Jourdan Dunn, Arlenis Sosa [Image via The Flaunt Files].

I wrote extensively about the racial inequality of fashion magazines as part of my Postgraduate course at the London College of Fashion, and it's something I am continually aware of with every magazine that I buy. I really hope that we begin to see some positive change in the fashion industry from now on.


  1. I 1000% agree with you. I hate the fact that diverse beauty is not celebrated in the industry. I remember being desperate to be a model but never pursued it because I thought there was only room for one black model and would have been considered too big, but I love the fact that bigger girls are are being recognised and all sizes should be celebrated.

    I love your blog too! Keep up the good work.

    Lydia X

  2. Wow. I love this post. I also agreee with you a million and ten percent. People come in all shapes, sizes and colours, and it's so important for people to see a little piece of themselves in this industry. You have amazing points!

    Just like @Mademoiselle said, keep it up! You have great content! Following!!!

  3. Thank you, Mademoiselle L and Medge! It's great to know that other people want to see more diversity on the catwalk. Hopefully we will see a more representative image of beauty soon, because at the moment it feels a little too stereotyped and it would be great to see things shaken up and all ethnicities/sizes/ages celebrated.

    Polly x


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