It was back in the eighties when I first realised that Fashion was my tribe. At that time my fashion friends were a hotch-potch of ages, sizes, backgrounds, all sorts. We all came together even though our way of doing fashion was quite different. Fashion was all about creativity and people not homogenised consumption and profit.
Whatever happened to fashion celebrating difference? Have you ever wondered why the models that you see on the catwalk don't look like you and your friends, who all love dressing up and for whom life without fashion just wouldn't be the same?
Without fashion I don’t know where I’d be. Through fashion, I’ve made friendships and a career. Fashion, to me, is about uniting people regardless of their style differences: we don't insist our friends look like us, love the same clothes or buy into the same brands; we admire their unique style, their way of putting together their own best self; we love the contents of their wardrobes even when we wouldn't choose to wear the garments inside. We are inspired by the diverse manner in which those around us dress, sometimes that means we aspire to share their style, but more often it is an acceptance that we all have our own way to do Fashion.
When I walk around London, I’m always inspired by the magical melting pot around me: everybody looking utterly fabulous in their own individual way. It perplexes me why this isn’t represented by the fashion industry? When you look at the world's major catwalk shows they tell a very different story. Yes inroads into diversity have been made. The annual report from Fashion Spot for Spring 2019 states that it "was the most racially diverse, size diverse and gender-inclusive fashion month ever and the labels that cast the most models of colour had entirely nonwhite lineups. That said, there are still serious strides to be made in all the diversity categories, especially in Europe."
New York Fashion Week kicks off on February 7 and in a press release this week Leslie Russo, executive vice president of IMG fashion events, which puts on the shows, said “Fashion week is a celebration of fashion’s role in our culture. We all wear clothes, I think you would really see over the last few years how fashion week has changed the conversation around things like diversity in casting."
She goes on to explain “On the runway, size diversity in terms of designers now featuring models that are, you know, beyond a size zero.”
Like, that's enough then. Job done. The fashion industry no longer has a problem with diversity as NYFW casts some models that aren't suffering from eating disorders, and some designers cast models of colour. Really? Don't get me wrong, this is a great start but we still have a long way to go. There is more than a hint of tokenism at work in this industry. Has fashion really moved very far from it's judgmental "you're in or you're out position"? I don't see that many catwalks, or for that matter fashion editorial, meaningfully embracing inclusivity that much. And I know from chatting on and off line many people feel marginalized by the homogeneous identity portrayed at fashion weeks; They want to see themselves represented by the fashion industry as they love – and buy- clothes too.
As editor of GOLDIE magazine I am often asked how I feel about the lack of older models to choose from. The topic of ageism in fashion frequently arises on our social media pages: Where are all the older models? And why are those models who are over forty all in the same mould? Arguably, and again I refer to The Fashion Diversity report, age is still the most taboo ism in the industry. But I don't feel that picking out that one particular aspect - ageism - will necessarily help shift the whole culture at work within fashion. We need to encourage a mind shift that puts people first, be they of different ages, ethnicities, or sizes; whether they have disabilities, are transgender or transvestite or any other 'other'.
I have never remotely been any sort of campaigner. However I have become increasingly irritated by the lack of imagination in casting on the catwalks and with London Fashion Week almost upon us - Friday 15th February to Tuesday 19th February - I feel compelled to take a stand.
I am asking people to join me in showing the fashion world what inclusivity really looks like. On Sunday 17th February I plan to put on a huge celebration of diversity in fashion. Everyone’s welcome to the party, just dress in your Sunday best. I’d love to hire a bus from East to West London and use it as a vehicle to help spread the message that fashion should be about creativity and fun. We'll have music, we'll have dancing and people of all shapes and sizes and ethnicities coming together to show the fashion industry how it can be done. The bus will stop along the way including the Strand where we’ll take our party and our message to the pavement outside the British Fashion Council’s LFW Show Space.
This isn't a criticism of fashion. This is sharing our love. This is saying "I know you are trying your best but have you thought about including people who look like me so we can continue to feel good about loving fashion?"
To get our message across will require money. And this is where I need your help. I need to raise £2,000 to make this idea a reality. If you can help me reach my funding goal, you'll be contributing to an even bigger conversation changer in the fashion industry. We can show that we care about fashion so much that we believe it is worth having a relationship with even if it sometimes feels like unrequited love.
Everybody who makes a donation will receive a mini-GOLDIE magazine fashion-fanzine with images from our fashion editorials that haven't been published elsewhere and will be entered into a prize draw for a place on the bus with us as we proclaim our rightful place on the catwalk: Fashion For All.
So if you believe, as I do, that fashion shouldn’t be about conformity or exclusivity. That it is about making you feel good, regardless of size or age or ethnicity or gender, then please donate and come along dressed in your Sunday Best.