If you’ve ever had to endure anything more frustrating than sitting on the top deck of a London bus (captained by an unusually unaggressive driver), whilst gridlocked on the roundabout next to Waterloo station, wedged next to a robust man who smells a bit (and insists, inexplicably, on sitting as though he has a python in his trousers), whilst girls in the seat behind you drone in endless ‘I am achingly cool’ monotone about ‘the modelling world’ without screaming/throwing things/attempting to fling yourself bodily through the bus window, then truly you are a better woman than me.
Yes, it is that time of year again, when all the excitement that heralds the autumn clothing season is celebrated, in what is known as London Fashion Week. Industry insiders will salivate with anticipation as the latest collections are unleashed to the public. Glossy mags will speak of nothing else for at least a fortnight. Londoners will be subjected to a surge of designer and model wannabes descending on our city like a plague of lofty, fragile, identically dressed* locusts. And you just know that someone, somewhere is going to re-ignite the size 0 debate.
*This year it is dirty platinum bobs underneath Charlie Chaplin-style bowler hats, gothic purple lipstick, leopard print ankle boots and a skirt that looks a bit like those worn by the dolls your Nan puts on top of toilet rolls, only made out of transparent material (with what appear to be cycling shorts underneath to protect one’s modesty). You heard it here first, people.
For body confidence campaigners, having to answer endless size-0 related questions is invariably what London fashion week signifies. Having now been at the helm of Body Gossip (along with Ruth ‘The Legend’ Rogers) since 2008 I grow weary of the entire thing, frankly.
It isn’t that I don’t think the size 0 debate is one worth having, I just wish that we could absorb what was extrapolated from last year’s debate and move it up to the next level.
One of the most common criticisms thrown at Body Gossip is that ‘body image is soooooooooooooo 2009’. It seems that anything revolving around body confidence is considered passé. Which is utterly daft when you consider the extent to which it continues to dominate people’s lives.
The reason people think body image is boring, or has been done to death, is that the same tired-old arguments are being churned out on an endlessly tedious conveyor belt of badly reported eating disorder ‘real life stories’, pictures of emaciated models, celeb gains-weight-loses-weight-gains weight-loses-weight (ad infinitum) press articles and programmes until we all want to scream ‘oh, will you just SOD OFF?’.
There are fresh opinions, brand spanking new research, compromises and solutions out there. I hear them every day. The fact that I find body image so endlessly fascinating isn’t because I am a brainless moron or have the memory of a hungover goldfish. It’s because there is a lot to say and to comprehend.
So let’s start saying and comprehending it.
For example – Here are a few thoughts I have had/heard about London Fashion week, in no particular order:
Straight-size models are super slender not always because they are starving themselves but because they are CHILDREN. When people discuss the detrimental effect of catwalk images, no one ever seems to take into account that most high fashion models are about 14 and haven’t had the chance to develop breasts/hips etc yet. The models I saw on the bus looked like 8 year olds, stretched. The idea that any fully grown woman would consider it in any way aspirational to squish themselves into an equivocal size is actually laughable.
Fashion is art. And the artistic ‘movement’ to which it would belong would be 'abstract'. Yes, I have grasped the rudiments of how designers-influence-the-catwalk-influence-celebs-influence-the-high-street (we've all seen Meryl Streep's magnificent rant on the stubject in 'The Devil Wears Prada'), but what we see during London fashion week shouldn’t have any direct bearing on what your average Josephine feels she should look like. Just like an abstract painting, it should be enjoyed for its aesthetic brilliance but not seen as a reflection of reality as we know it.
How about, rather than blame the fashion industry for the low self-esteem epidemic in the Western World, we worked on changing our collective mind-set? Imagine if we felt so great about ourselves that we could glance at Fashion Week’s happenings with moderate interest, perhaps even try a trend if we think it might suit us, but not feel any less worthy because most of us can never hope to emulate totally what we are seeing?
The girls on the bus, as irritating as their drone-some monotones were, were in fact right. There is a ‘modelling world’. There is a ‘fashion world’. It’s their world, but it doesn’t have to be ours.
Body Gossip is working to give a glimpse into the REAL world of bodies and empower the stories of a wide cross-section of people, as an antidote to all this nonsense. Ultimately, we want everyone to feel so marvellous about themselves that outside influence cannot penetrate their veneer of confident fabulousness. For, as Lorlett Hudson, business coach extrordinaire and formidable lady of brilliance once said “someone or something can only have as much power over you as you allow it to”.