London Fashion Week Shines Spotlight on Body Diversity

All eyes are on the UK capital this week as London Fashion Week kicks off, showcasing the up and coming style trends for Spring / Summer 2016. Whilst here at Talent Management we’re waiting with baited breath to find out what we’ll be wearing next summer, we’re also focusing on the weightier issues hitting the press. This year, it’s not just the forthcoming season’s fashion, or the decadence and glitz and glamour of the shows that are attracting media headlines; the row over body size continues to rumble.

A Move Towards More Realistic Body Image

Allegations that the fashion industry is responsible for perpetuating unhealthy body images amongst young women, and setting unrealistic expectations of body size amongst young people is not new. However, as the trend towards lean models continues, and incidences of body shaming and eating disorders unfortunately rise, the issue is gathering more and more attention. From UK Parliament, to international fashion houses with a social and moral conscious, more and more people are standing up for body diversity.

This year MP Caroline Nokes has joined the discussions, speaking out against the use of very thin models, and stating that they should be banned from the catwalk. Nokes —chairperson for the All Party Parliamentary group on Body Image — has gotten behind a movement in Europe, where it’s demanded that catwalk models cannot fall below certain body size. Nokes has suggested that it is time to set similar regulatory code in the UK, where models must have a Body Mass Index of over 18 to be allowed to work and participate in shows. The Conservative MP has expressed serious concerns that underweight models are being used as clothes horses, saying: “It sets unrealistic ideals and I think it can promote anorexia chic. If the designers aren’t going to act more responsibly maybe it’s time for legislation. Let’s set some limits.”

Embracing All Shapes and Sizes

The impact on young women aspiring to be like the underweight models isn’t the only concern. What about the models themselves? As we covered in an earlier blog post, these teens, often away from home for the first time, arguably need to be cared for by their employers. The industry self styles itself as caring and inclusive, with the British Fashion Council at the forefront. The BFC run The Model Zone, as part of their Model Health Programme, created to ensure the well-being of models during London Fashion Week. The Model Zone is a private area at the shows, providing dedicated space to eat and relax, as well as advice about proper nutrition, health, wellness and fitness.

The suggestion of a BMI limit on models was criticised by the British Fashion Council, who argue that it could be discriminatory against the younger, naturally small girls. BMI has long been considered a poor measurement of weight and health, as it fails to consider muscle mass, age, sex, race, body type or bone density. The BFC feel that smaller girls with naturally smaller frames would be marginalised, however plus-sized models, who are currently unrepresented on the catwalk feel the need for greater inclusion. Elia Thompson, who walked at the UK Plus Size Fashion Week says, “I definitely feel different body types should be represented because the world is filled with so many body shapes.”

#Plusisequal Campaign – Plus Sized Models

Plus-sized Fashion House Lane Bryant, committed to style for plus-sized women  not just fit, agrees. Its most recent campaign #plusisequal highlights how over two-thirds of all American women are considered plus size, yet they are virtually unrepresented in the fashion industry worldwide, culturally and in the media. Their campaign — which features a number of stunningly beautiful plus-sized models — calls on the major fashion magazines Glamour, Vogue and Harpers Bazaar to support them in making plus sized, equal. Also embracing cultural diversity and inclusion, #plusisequal highlights that over 95% of plus-sized women feel that they’re not represented in the media, and 65% of them feel that the fashion industry ignores their needs.

Clearly there is a great demand from consumers for greater inclusion, which will create a demand for more plus-sized and curvy models. Lane Bryant’s #plusisequal is paving the way, by putting aspiring plus sized models on virtual billboards across the USA. Fancy seeing your face on a billboard in New York? Go to #plusisequal and upload your selfie today.