Snapped ‘All Walks Beyond The Catwalk’ Debate at The National Portrait Gallery, 11th February.
How do you solve a problem like Fashion? Is there a problem? Well yes, in retrospective there is. Fashion and Fashion Photography is, in my opinion, a beautiful art; created by geniuses of the creative mind. And as with any artists: people of a restless nature will constantly strive for new, inspirational, unique, and memorable ‘art’ forms to showcase poignantly.
However, on Friday 11th February I attended a live debate at The National Portrait Gallery, part of The All Walks Beyond The Catwalk campaign who are driven to highlight, in their opinion, the injustices of fashion within the media currently existing. The panel consisted of five remarkably articulate - opinion contrasting at times yes - women, who collectively put up a united front against the ignorance of the impact fashion images in the media, has upon women. Women in particular, but undoubtedly men also; although all six men of influence within the industry, when asked, declined the invitation to participate, leaving the opinion of the other sex unbalanced and subsequently hushed. Caryn franklin chaired the debate successfully, with fellow campaign member and former supermodel Erin O’Connor taking centre stage. Guest speakers Lorraine Candy: Editor Of ELLE magazine, Lib-Dem politician Lynne Featherstone, Dr Linda Papadopoulos; a familiar face of psychology in the recent media - television in particular - and Kiki Kendrick who was integral in the UK advertising scene and who more recently has turned to proactively promoting every day women and pioneering ethics and social issue campaigns. And finally co-founder of AWBTC Debra Bourne; Former PR Director at Lynne Franks PR.
The aim of the evening was to debate what the impact, if any, of these fashion and beauty images we are everyday bombarded with in our daily lives, has upon women, young girls, and society’s preconceptions today. Is it the force for which we measure the credentials of our own identity, and if so is this fundamentally a negative one?
And ever since this evening, the words of the night and the repercussions of these universal issues for many girls have reverberated in my head…
I tentively broach this subject as, as Lorraine Candy of ELLE also appeared to consider, I don’t believe women cannot decipher for themselves that these hyper-real, fantastical, flawless images aren't actually real; and do not involve a lot of visual trickery, post production heightening and a vast team of experts in their fields, to create this momentarily perfect image. Or is that just me? I feel fully aware these are aspirational images, the same as when I see an advert I don’t entirely believe if I buy that product my life will dramatically change becoming a breeze and all problems effortlessly solved. Advertisers aim for us to buy into a lifestyle we all know is not entirely true. So can the same be said for fashion magazines, catwalk images and all other outlets fashion dominates? Advertising has incredible legal responsibilities and restrictions in how far they can go, does the Fashion industry?
I feel detached from any negativity of body image associated with the issue generally, but I am 28 years old, with I think substantial life experience that leads me to this, however, a younger impressionable sixteen year old girl cannot possibly be expected to be aware of the same perspective. And this is the issue, there are moral obligations here to be had, responsibilities of the entire fashion industry to be recognised, you would have to be a fool to not acknowledge the fact some women or girls are left feeling inferior, disheartened or worse altered by these images.
I instantly admit I do not have the answer, the perfect balance of the two. Fashion as art, and the detrimental impact this appears to allude to. I am a huge fan of Fashion, Erin O’Connor herself stated the same, when Connor was scouted at a young age to become a top model this gave her confidence in herself and her beauty, which she lacked prior in her world as a 6ft woman feeling out of place. However, when barked at by an unnamed designer more recently ‘what happened to you?’ when she couldn’t fit into a pair of sample trousers back stage of a show, she has realised that fashion has taken a nose dive with the expectations of size, or more lack of it, and silence, models are required to abide by today.
I have since the debate began to take second glances at fashion images to see where this sadness for many comes from. When I see such stunning, editorial spreads, photography at its most contemporary, experimental and eye opening, I am in awe. But for many this is portraiture, a reflection of another, regardless of the factors of it being an altered image and the time taken to achieve this, in some eyes this is a fellow woman who looks like many young girls feel they don’t look. And so, this has to be approached.
Size Zero on the catwalks: must go. This is undisputable. And London Fashion Week: you are the worst for refusing to sign up to this. You have to re think. And fashion and beauty images need to be more honest, when it’s a fantasy editorial spread for artistic aspiration only; this has to be clearly labelled as such, but also, for magazines to then incorporate and embrace fashion and beauty spreads from a more natural, genuine corner of the feminine world. Some say ‘real women’, for me, it’s a positive image of women wholly.
This can be all accomplished. The more pressing issue for me: is gossip magazines, reality TV, sensationalism in the media and sheer slander. Women writing about how hideous other women look, for example in Heat. What on earth do these magazines think they are doing? Blindly, or out of sheer stupidity in my opinion, slating a woman, or man, in the magazine for being too fat, too thin, too frumpy, too what… human?? This is inexcusable and far more detrimental to any optimism of a positive image of women in the media, real women if you want for a better phrase. I am not a feminist in any way. I see or feel no inferiority and have no issue there. My issue is with how women comment on other women in these print ‘pieces’.
The age of celebrity and reality TV brings a whole other level, a higher platform for many to look up to, it’s becoming elevated and out of reach, and control, regarding these emotionally damaging and unconstructive issues raining down upon women. Something here has to be done. Who would want their daughter, sister, friend, niece etc… to feel even slightly moved, negatively, by anything they are exposed to in the media - it is not hidden from them - where girls then see this as a cultural levelling platform to aspire to, wrongly, in their own lives...
I will add to this. I do not feel entirely finished with this, yet.
I will add to this. I do not feel entirely finished with this, yet.