So Much More
I think I worked the hardest I have ever worked in 30 years on our All Walks Beyond the Catwalk campaign which features amongst others.... the delicious model Valerie Pain shot by Rankin and was displayed at the National Portrait Gallery during our 2011 campaign SNAPPED, as part of the initiative I co-founded with Debra Bourne and Erin O-Connor to promote a range of bodies in our fashion media.
I just love seeing Valerie in this Antonio Berardi figure hugging dress. Even more than that, I love it that her face and body have not be airbrushed or post-produced in any way, making it an realistic photograph. Take a look at her skin...none of it is changed to look younger - it's still beautiful right? And her body is authentically that of an older woman, lower slung breasts, thicker waist, hips and rounded tummy. I tell my students all these extra gifts come with age and it's these elements that make us individual. Why should they be erased?
They like me and the team at All Walks are rallying against a cultural insensitivity that ignores the beauty of diversity. Beauty ages beautifully and getting older looks just as delicious. Or put another way...If you or I are looking at a beautiful garden, we want to see a variety of flowers, from tall stems with spiky buds to bushy tentacles with soft fleshy blooms. All gardeners know the importance of bio diversity too...but now I digress to my favourite hobby.
It's worth asking why so much of the imagery that represents femininity is so limited, and believe me I do and I encourage my students to investigate the commercial thinking that is frankly ill-conceived in its infantilisation of femaleness. And I know that our lecture influence them quote profoundly...
"My name is Ella. I am a current student of Fashion Journalism at Central Saint Martins. After you came in to our university to talk to us about diversity in fashion and what you do at 'All Walks Beyond the Catwalk', it became a great influence on all the work I have produced since."
When I'm talking to CEO's about broadening the offer to incorporate images that represent all women, I experience fear generally, because stepping away from a tried and tested route to profit that relies upon the exclusive use of thin, white, teenagers is well...like stepping in to the unknown. There are currently too many male experts working in women's wear, who are determined to stick to the well-trodden path despite there being a much more exciting field to explore!
My latest project has a visionary take on the way women select clothes...more about that later.