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London Fashion Week – Row over plus size models

Fashion Week is back in London for its 25th anniversary, but aside from the glamour, the hedonistic designs, the glitterati and the parties; this season also receives hundreds of column inches on sizing used on the runway.

This time the issue has been raised because of the use of plus size models. According to reports (read The Guardian article here) a back-stage row erupted at London Fashion Week after knitwear designer, Mark Fast) chose to use ‘normal-sized’ models in his show.

Fast, who is known for his sculpted ‘bodycon’ dresses, used three models who were sizes 12-14 to showcase his designs – which prompted his stylist to resign.

The news emerged after a journalist from the fashion magazine Elle posted a message on Twitter within an hour of the show. Fast’s managing director, Amanda May, said she was ‘so happy we stuck to our guns over the casting’ adding that she was ‘really grateful’ to another stylist, Daniella Agnelli, who had stepped in at the last minute.

Fast used size 12 model Hayley Morley in his catwalk show after working with her for the London Fashion Week photography exhibition, All Walks Beyond the Catwalk.
It launched on Friday at London’s Somerset House with a party attended by prime minister’s wife Sarah Brown (who admitted she had “sneaked out” of a number 10 reception for British designers she was hosting) and Alexandra Shulman, editor of British Vogue, who wrote to leading designers asking for larger-sized clothes for the magazine’s photo shoots. She said: “We have now reached the point where many of the sample sizes don’t comfortably fit even the established star models”.

The exhibition features models aged 18 to 65, in sizes 8 to 16, wearing outfits created by young London designers. It aims to change the narrow vision of beauty offered by the fashion world. The size issue is always a sore point within the industry. The 2007 Model Health Inquiry was launched by the British Fashion Council in response to the death from starvation of several models who had been slaves to the size-zero trend. It failed to set out any firm industry guidelines but the debate has gained momentum; this month, plus-size model Crystal Renn launched her autobiography at a glittering Manhattan party and talked of a new vogue for women “lush and sparkly without a jutting collarbone in sight”.

All Walks Beyond the Catwalk aims to change the perception of young designers towards age and weight. Exhibition curator and fashion TV presenter Caryn Franklin said: “Working with designers early in their career to introduce this shift is crucial.” In Fast, she may have found her first true convert.