The #NoSizeFitsAll campaign wants the fashion industry to increase the size of it’s sample sizes [Photo: Getty]
With just a few days before the doors are thrown open on this year’s London Fashion Week, the spotlight has once again turned to the size of the models strutting their stuff on the runway.
In the past there have been campaigns by both individuals and organisations to try to outlaw the use of excessively skinny models on the catwalk. The latest attempt to bring healthy body image to the forefront of LFW comes from the Women’s Equality Party (WEP). But whereas previous campaigns have focussed on the size of the models themselves, the #NoSizeFItsAll campaign is aiming to get to the root of the problem by tackling the sample sizes provided by designers. Leader of the WEP, Sophie Walker, explained to Yahoo that they are calling on British designers to show at least two sample sizes, one in a UK size 12 or above, as opposed to the size 6 that is currently the industry standard.
“This campaign is really about abandoning the softly, softly approach that we have seen from previous body image campaigns,” Sophie explains. “All of which have been important and useful. But we are saying it is time to go to the core problem here, it is time to go to the root of this issue and that is the tiny sample sizes that fashion designers create. This is an industry that pins its creativity to producing garments of such miniscule size that normal sized women must starve themselves to the point of malnutrition before they can fit them.”
This is the first campaign that is aiming to tackle sample sizing [Photo: Getty]
The WEP are calling on the British Fashion Council to commit that by LFW next year all fashion designers showing at the event will show at least two different sample sizes, one of which has got to be a UK size 12 and above.
The aim, explains Sophie, is to tackle the growing number of women and girls suffering from eating disorders.
“We wanted to raise awareness of body image issues for women and girls and have a meaningful debate about the significant and wide ranging consequences of the idolisation by the fashion industry of this uniform very thin body type,” she says.
According to the WEP 28 studies from the UK, Europe, North America and Australia found that images in the media of models had a direct impact on how women viewed their bodies, with negative body image putting someone at a considerably heightened risk of developing an eating disorder.
“Eating disorders now affect 1.6million people in the UK. And nearly 90% of those are female. So this is a public health problem of scale, which is disproportionately affecting women and girls. It is causing healthcare costs for eating disorders to rise and it is costing us an overall economic cost of £1.3 billion year,” she says.
“We are saying it is time for the fashion industry to recognise that it can and must affect change in this area.”
The WEP are calling for more diversity on the catwalk [Photo: Getty]
And the campaign doesn’t end there, the WEP is also calling for a change in the law to ensure models are of a healthy weight.
“We think there should be a change in the law so that if you are a fashion model with a BMI below 18.5 you need to be seen by a medical health professional to be registered healthy in order to be employed by a modelling agency,” she explains.
“And that’s not thin-shaming. This is not about criticising people for the shape they are, this is about ensuring that women are healthy and that we have a representation of all shapes and sizes on those catwalks because it is from those catwalks that all media imagery flows.”
Other aspects of the #NoSizeFitsAll campaign involve calling for body image education to be mandatory in schools and for magazines to include at least one plus-sized (size 12 or above) editorial fashion spread in every issue.
It goes without saying that fashion magazines would have a more positive impact on eating disorders if readers were faced with fashion shoots celebrating a variety of body shapes, instead of unachievably thin ones. As Sophie points out, this will only ever be possible if the root cause – the tiny sample sizes – is addressed. If designers continue only to supply tiny sample sizes, models will be forced to continue to fit their bodies into them.
The WEP has written to Maria Miller the conservative MP and chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee to ask her to call a public hearing of the fashion houses.
“We need to have a public discussion with the fashion designers to ask them how they explain the need for this excessive thinness. I’d like them to explain to us why they think this excessive thinness among models is integral to their industry and artistic vision,” explains Sophie.
To really hammer their point across the WEP have also teamed up with Caryn Franklyn, industry expert and professor of diversity in fashion at Kings University and model and campaigner Rosie Nelson.
Last year Rosie started a petition on change.org which received over 125,000 signatures asking for models health law because of her experiences in the industry. Though naturally slim, Rosie was told by a top agency to get thinner. She lost a lot of weight and came back to the agency with a BMI of 16 which is classed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as below severely malnourished. The agency told her she was doing really well, but to keep going as they needed her to get down to the bone. She hopes that by working on the campaign she’ll remind people that this is still an issue that needs addressing.
Rosie Nelson presents her petition to Downing Street [Photo: Getty]
Another supporter of the campaign is the plus size model and mental health advocate, Jada Sezer. An ambassador for the charity Young Minds, she created her own Vogue-style photo project connecting with photographers and recreating editorials with her - a UK size 16 - as the model. When she posted the images online they quickly went viral and she’s since been invited to model for Evans in London Fashion Week’s first ever plus-size show in 2014.
The campaign is also hoping to encourage women to post pictures of the labels in their clothes to social media under the hashtag #NoSizeFitsAll in a bid to show the true diversity of British women and girls.
“This was prompted by research that reveals 1 in 5 women in the UK cut out the size label from their clothes because they are ashamed of they size,” explains Sophie. “It is very sad and just proves at how important it is that we take back control of our experiences and liberate women to feel happy, comfortable and confident in their skin.”
As far as diversity on the catwalk is concerned things have been getting arguably better of late with the appearance of more diverse body shapes and ethnicities. But as Sophie points out the change has been painfully slow and there’s been no real deviation from the core problem.
“Modelling is such a narrow representation of the world,” she explains. “There is a very clear problem with racism on the catwalks and in the fashion industry and that is absolutely linked to this adherence to excessive thinness. That is a very particular body shape. The continued use of skinny, white women is also what is also preventing women of much more diverse ethnicities from participating.”
Until the catwalk, and fashion in general, better reflects the world we live in – in all its amazing diversity – the problem will only continue to grow.
“As well as obviously being damaging for all of us. It can only be beneficial for the fashion industry to evolve,” Sophie continues. “Can you imagine the success they could enjoy if they could involve the millions of women that they currently disenfranchise and shun because of this insistence that you can only look a certain way.”
What do you think about the #NoSizeFitsAll campaign? Let us know @YahooStyleUK