"All Walks Beyond the Catwalk is an initiative founded by Caryn Franklin, Debra Bourne and Erin O’Connor working with influential Catwalk designers and top industry creatives to celebrate more diversity within the fashion industry."I bring it up now as this year, All Walks had a stand and did some press at GFW (they did last year, too, but I wasn't there in 2010), and beforehand, Caryn Franklin made the trip up north to give a (really interesting) talk at Northumbria.
That was, of course, some months ago (April, I think? Maybe even March...) but that's when the work started to pile up and I never did get round to writing about the project.
It's an inspiring one, though - the mission is, ultimately, to change the way the fashion industry works, encouraging diversity in the industry, changing the way the media presents fashion, and showing women everywhere that the beauty standard is not the tall, thin, young and white look set by the industry (for the most part) today.
Rankin shoot//i-D shoot - from allwalks.org
In their two short years, the project has launched high profile campaigns - features in i-D, events at LFW and GFW, and at the National Portrait Gallery - and has attracted big name designers (Vivienne Westwood, Matthew Williamson, Stella McCartney etc) and other big industry names (Rankin shot the first big campaign, above) as well as new names on the scene (Mark Fast, David Koma, Hannah Marshall etc). With the big, influential names of the future now getting involved, it's easy to assume that progression has been made, but only time will tell.
At Northumbria, Caryn talked a little about All Walks, but also about women, media, fashion and beauty in general and raised some points I couldn't ignore. Trying to decipher my months-old notes is a challenge, but my scribbles include points like:
- caucasian women, on average, have lower self esteem than those of colour, and are more represented in fashion. Coincidence?
- manipulation of images damages mental health, but while it's illegal to misrepresent a fridge, for example, in advertising etc, you can change a man or woman's body beyond recognition without anyone batting an eyelid.
- the availability of catwalk images compared to 30 years ago means we are now reaching a global audience, which means model's looks are too.
Most impotantly to me, I think, she asked, do designers not have the skills to dress women of different body types?
I can assure you, we aren't taught such skills. We aren't taught to grade patterns (how hard can that be?) or what flatters someone who isn't model-sized. There isn't time, I suppose - on my course, there wouldn't be the time/money/resources to produce a collection in final year for anyone who wasn't model sized, for example, but somewhere in the 4 years (or even on a 3 year course), would there not be room for a project for a plus-sized women, or a petite women, for example? I've certainly seen a couple of jobs advertised for plus sized designers which I haven't applied for, knowing I'm not confident that I could design successfully for such a customer.
That isn't to my advantage.
In fact, it's to no one's advantage.
All Walks is doing something important and necessary; something I hope any other bloggers reading this can appreciate. The majority of bloggers are real people with real body shapes; a lot of you work in the industry, or are hoping to at some point. You can get involved and raise awareness with a quick visit to the site (linked at the top of the page). I can only encourage you to get your tutors/bosses involved too, or spread the word if you can.