Monday, 26 October 2009

Size zero, who's to blame?

Last week I attended an evening of debate surrounding the topic of size in the fashion industry. Held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts and focussed around the ‘Real People Catwalk’ it was an interesting event to attend with industry insiders such as Hilary Alexander making up the panel.

The 'Real People Catwalk' was the idea of Elaine Foster-Gandey founder of Designer Sales UK (DSUK). This is the second event Elaine has hosted, the first being at one of the five DSUK sample sales she holds per year at the Truman Brewery in Shoreditch

Elaine uses her customers as models and although they didn't have size or age in common they all had one thing- personality! they were loving that catwalk and weren't afraid to show it!

Although I wasn't convinced on the styling of the show, particularly the models who I feel were not made to look at their best I tried not to let that take me away from the issue. However, I feel if a fashion show is to be taken seriously and put into context with the larger sense of the fashion world it needs to be meticulous in it's execution or risks more hurdles to face in the long run.

Following the show there was a debate from a panel including Hilary Alexander Fashion Director of The Telegraph, Eleni Renton of ethical model agency Leni's Model Management, Elaine Foster-Gandey of DSUK and writer Dariush Alavi.

The debate threw up some interesting points and I found I took a lot from the session.

Hilary pointed out that it is the clothes that are the main focus of a catwalk, the models are not supposed to be registered as the designers emphasis wants to be on the fabrics, cuts, styles not necessarily on the personality of the model.

An audience comment was that the catwalk is condemned too much when it is the wider media scrutiny from celebrity obsessed titles such as Heat that consistently point out the weaknesses in public figures, with no one ever accepted as getting it right. People are either too fat or too skinny. It is these ideals that are increasingly being cemented in our society by the growing number of celebrity fodder magazines clogging up the racks.

Eleni of Leni’s Model Management spoke a lot of sense throughout the debate. She pointed out that it is not about seeing size 20 people on the catwalk it is simply about the image being portrayed as a healthy aspirational one. We all want to see beautiful creatures walking down the runway or in our magazines, and a size 20 just as equally as a size 0 is not aspirational to most people.

For more information on the panelists visit