All Walks Beyond The Catwalk at London Fashion Week

Running around London Fashion Week last week there were plenty of fantastic collections to write up (something I’ve been doing here)… but very little in the way of feminist happenings to report on. That was until I bumped into the All Walks Beyond the Catwalk campaign in the Vauxhall Fashion Scout venue at the opulent (and slightly creepy) Freemason’s Hall. In a little make-shift photography studio the All Walks team were snapping away at willing participants, each holding a letter that would later spell out ‘Every Body Counts’.

The campaign, devoted to ‘broadening the size and age range of professional models used at London Fashion Week’ was co-founded by Clothes Show legend Caryn Franklin, fashion consultant Debra Bourne and the ever-poised Erin O’Connor. The project was started in May 2009 after Susan Ringwood, chief executive of eating disorder charity BEAT, posed the question “Was it possible to show fashion on a range of inspiring bodies?”

Since that question was popped, All Walks have created campaigns, magazine editorials AND fashion shows featuring models ranging in size from 8 to 16, and in age between 18 and 65. The most well known example of All Walk’s work was at last season’s Mark Fast show where the appearance of average sized women in clingy knits was apparently too much for the stylist to cope with… and grabbed plenty of headlines. Fast did it again this year, this time with the most super of plus-sized models Crystal Renn (I’m reading her fabulous autobiography at the moment – review to come!) as his secret weapon.

Whilst I think the campaign is an amazing one, and desperately needed, there are just a couple of things that irk me slightly (I know, I know… I’m a nit-picker!). First up, why only officially concentrate on diversity in size and age when catwalks are still awash with white?! Jezebel very recently reported on the staggering lack of racial diversity on the catwalks of New York Fashion Week and I’m sure a similar analysis would come out of London Fashion Week too, so why not commit to tackling this particular lack of diversity as well? I’m sure it must be on the All Walk’s agenda (in fact, it IS mentioned here), it just isn’t obviously written in their main promo material (descriptions on website, facebook or twitter) as one of their objectives. Odd. Perhaps we are at a delusional stage where people are hoping it’s not a problem anymore?

Another thing. After the clumsy, but well meaning, attempt of BBC Three’s Britain’s Missing Top Model to get disabled models into the fashion spotlight, you’d think this would be on the All Walks agenda too. Sadly not, although I’m sure there is room to bring this into the campaign in the future. In the mean-time, however, at least we have the (similar yet separate) Models of Diversity campaign. Along with Britain’s Missing Top Model winner Kelly Knox, representatives from the M.O.D. campaign made their presence felt at London Fashion Week (although, since they were protesting, they weren’t allowed into Somerset House).

All Walks is a relatively young campaign and yet, already, it’s doing brilliantly. I’m sure that this is because it’s coming from within the fashion industry, spearheaded by some well-connected and highly regarded names. Because of this, it’s approaching the industry on its own terms and being taken seriously. People are listening. But, aside from this, I also hope it’s simply because people are waking up to the need for more diversity on the catwalks. I especially love that All Walks is bringing age into this debate; it’s just as important to give visibility to older women and yet this is a factor that often gets overlooked.

Follow the All Walks campaign on Facebook and Twitter, or visit their website to find out more. That’s certainly what I’ll be doing every 10 minutes (or so… ahem) to check when they put up the picture they took of me holding up the R in ‘Every’! Until then, I’ll have to be content with this snapshot, taken by by Palida Boonyarungsrit, of me fashionably stomping on the request to size me up.

By: Sarah Barnes, 01.03.2010 | Comments (1)
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  • Angela
    June 30th, 2010
    3:04 pm

    As a “plus” model and the co-creator of the blog Plus-Size Models Unite, I am so excited about All Walks Beyond the Catwalk! I applaud diversity and as a women who used to struggle with body image and self esteem issues and as a mother of a daughter, the more images we see that represent beauty of all shapes, size, ages..the better!!!!! Everyone has their own unique beauty and we ask our viewers to ask themselves the very important question…What do you LOVE about yourself?

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