All Walks Beyond the Catwalk – Being a Diversity Visionary
On being a Diversity Visionary and Body Image Activist
I co-founded this initiative with Debra Bourne and Erin O'Connor back in 2009. All three of us, having come together with Beat (Beat Eating Disorders) a charity I had worked with since the early nineties, felt very strongly that fashion could and should promote achievable body ideals.
We created initiatives around positive body image featuring diverse models in age, size and ethnicity. We worked with London Fashion Week, i-D Magazine, Rankin, Kayt Jones, Nick Knight, The National Portrait Gallery, Graduate Fashion Week and many others. Everyone on the team worked in a voluntary unwaged way including us because if fashion is to influence women, then why not let it be in a positive way, showcasing a range of bodies and ages.
We moved our work into education with the support of June Barker and later Martyn Roberts of Graduate Fashion Week to promote our student competition Diversity NOW! Lecturing up and down the country and even abroad is one of the most effective ways to activate change - through our next generation of creatives who are Diversity Innovators. We've received some amazing student feedback in support of our work.
We've won a variety of awards and because of our very lippy stance have been invited into Parliament on a regular basis to discuss with politicians, mental health experts and educationalists to discuss the solution to rising body-hatred and self-harm. Yup our young are feeling under so much pressure to emulate an unachievable physical ideal mostly promoted by fashion that they are increasingly exhibiting low self-esteem and pre-occupation with their appearance.
Having worked for 6 years as Director on this initiative from May 2009 to July 2015, I felt I had done all I could. I stepped away to hold an independent Diversity Visionary position and continue to combine my interest in body image politics with my MSc studies in applied psychology in fashion.
For more info on All Walks visit the website
Photograph of Valerie Pain in Antonio Berardi shot by Rankin for our SNAPPED campaign at the National Portrait Gallery