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Another Normal Women Vs. Size Zero debate

Another day means another debate about the use of “real women” against thin women in the fashion industry. This ongoing dispute is long and complicated; it’s not the fashion industries intention to promote an unhealthy lifestyle or eating disorders, thin models are used because they are there to sell the clothes (or whatever the product is). Longer, thinner limbs photograph better, and sticklike figures means the designer can concentrate on his creation and artwork rather than making the clothes look flattering on that woman.

Alexander McQueen has said that if he could have hangers floating down the runway he wouldn’t use models again. The point is that “real women” aren’t supposed to look like models. Models don’t even look like models; there’s so much re-touching and make-up application, they’re just like any other “normal” thin girl you know.

On the other side, having these extremely thin women dressed glamorously in advertisements, and appearing to have it all, is going to be aspirational to some. Seeing this same message used constantly will lead women to think that if they are thin then they’ll be happy.

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Commercial London Fashion Week lives up to the hype

London Fashion Week stamped its mark on the international buying calendar this week, impressing buyers with some of the most commercial collections seen in years.

The designers returning to London Fashion Week were the stars of the schedule. Burberry Prorsum lived up to the hype surrounding the label with a collection that plugged into the trend for commercial yet feminine and playful product. It used sugary tones of mint and baby-pink chiffon, injecting fresh takes on its signature trench coats and girly dresses.

Matthew Williamson firmly shook off his boho mantle to team ethnic undertones with futuristic shiny fabrics and metallic detailing.

The best of the rest went to Christopher Kane, whose signature style of sinister yet innocent, came through with checked prairie dresses and sherbet silks with cutaway panels.

With big British names such as Burberry Prorsum and Pringle returning to London from rival international catwalks, the pressure was on the organiser, British Fashion Council (BFC), to live up to its promise that its 25th anniversary event would restore the buzz the capital had lacked since the late 1990s.

Early reports suggested the BFC largely succeeded, with a 15% rise on last season’s visitor figures and a host of international buyers and press.

BFC chairman Harold Tillman said: “We had great feedback from international and UK attendees. There are always things we can improve and work on but that is what drives us forward.”
Buyers were impressed by new talent as well as the much-hyped big-name returns.

Liberty buying director Ed Burstell said: “London Fashion Week certainly lived up to the hype with the return of Burberry and Matthew Williamson. Both put on outstanding shows. Other favourites were Luella, for her flirty and very saleable dresses, and Mark Fast and Mary Katrantzou as new talent to watch.”

He added that the relocation of the event to Somerset House had been long overdue. That sentiment was echoed by Harvey Nichols’ fashion buying director Averyl Oates, who said Somerset House and 180 The Strand “proved that in London we don’t always need a faceless warehouse space for ambience”.

However, other buyers found the venue confusing. Pamela Shiffer, owner of the eponymous two-store London indie, said: “It was hard to get an overview with all the different rooms in Somerset House.”

Some exhibitors said the new exhibition space at 180 The Strand was quiet, but Tillman argued that brands that marketed themselves well made good sales. He said: “The exhibitors that made appointments and created a focus on their area wrote business.”

Visitors were confident that LFW would now become an essential fixture on the buying calendar. Selfridges’ director of womenswear Anita Barr said: “If the BFC can persuade labels such as Burberry to show here again it will cement London’s importance.”

Tillman added: “We know we have our work cut out but we are confident that we can continue to raise the bar.”

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.