Tuesday, 22 September 2009


 Unless you have been living in a box all week, you will probably have heard that it is London Fashion Week. What you may be less aware of is that legions of flying pigs have been spotted in Zone 1, because the designer Mark Fast put average sized models on his catwalk in the same clothes as the other models.

Usually any designer using what are known as plus sized models tend to clothe them differently to the other girls and only allow them to walk together. I'm never sure whether this is to stop the plus sized girls inadvertantly showing just how thin regular models really are or the actions of someone who thinks they deserve a cookie for using a woman with actual breasts? But this 'ghettoization' always has the effect of re-emphasizing how different a plus size model looks and adds a touch of freak show to the proceedings. I half expect to see the designer dressed as Ripley's Believe it or Not, beckoning at you in to see some unique sight.

Mark Fast has been known in previous collections for trying to clothe a particularly slender clientele with his body con knitwear, so it was doubly interesting to see him use more generously proportioned women. It was more interesting to see that two members of staff, including his stylist left their jobs over the issue. Stylist Erika Kurihara says this is because she was unhappy about the girls' walk on the runway, but the media seems abuzz with the suggestion that she was unhappy about the size of the plus size models.

Obviously I have no idea why she quit her role at Mark Fast, but that won't stop me saying that I find it odd that the stylist was more concerned about the walk, but not about the ill fitting underwear that the three larger girls wore on the runway. Every stylist I have ever met knows the importance of decent undies to your outfit no matter where you are wearing it....

I could understand the dresses being a smaller size depending how Fast measures his samples, but I cannot understand why a stylist doesn't have the correct underwear available for models who were apparently booked in advance unless there is some fundamental problem with the decision to cast those models?

I looked at the pictures of the plus sized models in question to see if I could shed more light on this furore and realised I had been out of the fashion industry for so long that I thought the models looked stunning and that the curves they sported made a lot of taupe wool look quite sexy, while it just looked lifeless on the skinnier girls. I definitely couldn't relate to the semi-hysterical reaction this decision had caused, but seeing how the larger girls' bodies did steal the show from the clothes, I could see why the idea seemed so shocking to fashion insiders.

I have heard every reason given for why runway models are so much thinner than editorial models, let alone regular women. None of them makes particularly good business sense to me. Showing very expensive clothes on a body shape that is rarer than hen's teeth surely discourages most women from buying them? No other industry seems so hell-bent on dissuading people from using it. This makes me think that essentially the worship of incredibly thin models (and the extortionately high prices to some extent) are because the fashion industry simply wants to be an exclusive club and feel special. They are an influential global version of the cool girls at primary school who made their own badges or bracelets to mark them out from the other plebs...and nothing will make them want to share their spotlight.

Realising that (and the fact that I will never be able to afford to buy designer clothes) has made me much more sanguine about the fashion industry. I understand the unrealistic expectations it places on women and the instrinic materialism of making you want new stuff all the time, but it seems inevitable that increasing consumer savvy thanks to the internet and the pressures of the recession will force fashion to change eventually. And don't discount fashion's own perpetual love affair with the new...as long as it doesn't see a change in the size of models as body acceptance of the average person, the Emperor's New Clothes feel of rounded women on the runway will triumph!

Who ever said fashion was shallow?

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