Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Shape of Fashion: Part One

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The Shape of Fashion
ASOS Head Offices
18th September 2013
B-eat and ASOS

A debate on body ideals and representation in the fashion industry, The Shape of Fashion stimulated thought provoking debate thanks to introductory talks from those most closely involved within the fashion industry. B-eat is a charity which targets stigma against eating disorders; campaigns for improvements within services and provides support to those suffering from eating disorders and their families. For 24 years the charity has been tackling eating disorders to help set those struggling free and this year they teamed up with ASOS to battle the often triggering ideals represented within the fashion industry.

It isn't exactly breaking news that the fashion industry is heavily dominated by the slim white model but The Shape of Fashion has made me think of this in much more of a "which came first the chicken or the egg" way. Sophie Glover, Head of Technical Services at online retailer ASOS laid down the companies target audience as young women therefore the models they use reflect this. The majority of models being a size ten as this is the size they work off and their target audience, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that and I would challenge people who think otherwise. Obviously they also have models both bigger and smaller than a size ten but if you are targeting women of that size that is the best way to go about it; to show the clothes on these target women. The idea was challenged during debate in relation to the fact that the average women in the UK is a size 16; zero relevance I feel, that's not their target audience so I'm not sure why it matters? Nobody complains that Bon Marche use older women, well yes that is because they aren't trying to reach the younger demographic just in the same way ASOS are primarily targeting younger women.

I feel somewhat regretful in that I didn't bring up any of my opinions in the debate but I am a little bit shy in that respect so I am going to continue to write them here. Generally, I don't have an issue with catwalk modelling, as a health conscious person I believe there should be more controls in place in order to ensure models are both physically and mentally healthy. Providing snacks is a somewhat ignorant way to go about it, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink so to say, it just covers their backs in case things go down the pan. However, in terms of catwalk modelling, as highlighted by Carol Spenser during the evening, it isn't supposed to represent the norm in society. I mean how often do you see people with hair and make-up that outlandish on the street? You don't, catwalk modelling is made to look somewhat bizarre and there is something very hypnotising about it, it's impossible to take your eyes off these identical women trotting down the catwalk. It's a show, a performance but as said by model Georgina Wilkin: "It's what you're left with at the end of the day, when you shut the door. Anorexia doesn't stop when you have a day off." That is the bit that concerns me about modelling; the lack of support for these often very young women who are struggling with their relationships with their own bodies. That is where the fashion/modelling industry slips up.

Personally, I am rarely "triggered" by images in advertising; it is rare for me to really feel horrendous because I see a model who is slimmer than me or her boobs are better than mine or because she has a lovely toned bum. Generally, it doesn't affect me in that way but there are a lot of people I know of who appear to worship women in magazines and will embark on the new celebrity dieting. It is for that reason that I am passionate about diversity within modelling; I'm not expecting instant changes within the industry but it would be nice to get to the point at some point in the future where all shapes and sizes are represented within advertising. It would be nice for everyone to feel a sense of normality about their own body.

Hannah :)

Part Two to Follow...
Location: Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, UK

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