When will I look at a fashion show and see someone I can relate to?

As the days become sunnier, I have started looking for inspiration as to what my summer wardrobe will look like.

Marshmallow, powder blue and mist are my favourite colours this season. Lucky for me these colours were prominent on the catwalks of two of my favourite shows Marc Jacobs and Prabal Gurung.

Behind these beautiful clothes and palettes, there are beautiful models. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t imagine wearing what they wearing in the slightest. I mean how could I? I couldn’t relate to them.

Could I see myself wearing these outfits as portrayed on the runway? The short answer was no, I couldn’t. I would have to be a UK size 6 max to probably pull off what I was lusting after, and have the same shape and skin tone as the majority of the models.

But what if I saw it as inspiration for what I wanted to wear instead of seeing that as the end and all of it, maybe I could incorporate the colours and styles I loved and find something that fits the criteria at a fifth of the price instead?

But this small workaround brings up the underlying issue – if I couldn’t relate, I am sure a lot of other women who enjoy fashion wouldn’t be able to relate either.

First off the number of BAME models that walked these shows? In the Marc Jacobs Autumn/Winter 2015 show, no Black models walked and most of the other shows I watched were no different. Take Prabal Gurang as another example, White women were preferred for his shows, and the models were much smaller than your average women.

Are they showing diversity? Are they showing different body styles?

Again the answer is no. As we have seen before, there is a belief that those with White skin have a higher status than mixed/Black women on the catwalk. An archaic thought, but unfortunately this is what the audience will see and maybe not notice as they keep up with several fashion weeks.

Not that I don’t enjoy fashion week, it is one of my favourite bi-yearly events. The women are all beautiful in their ways, plus the huge contribution Fashion Week gives to the economy and young designers show us that the week deserves more credit than it gets. Critics complaining of the opulence of it all are either not creatively-minded or they don’t see it for what it is. It is a celebration of women and men who have created something beautiful, who are making outfits that inspire others and who want to make people feel as if they are making a statement with their clothes.

As much as I love watching the beautiful shows, I believe it is like some sort of pornography for women, we keep on watching in hope that one day our wardrobe could be like that, but the reality may not live up to the fantasy. Would you leave the house in some of the outfits you see on the catwalk, especially as the lack of diversity in terms of race, body size and capabilities makes it so hard to relate to in the first place?

Burberry’s moving forward, but is the rest of the fashion industry still two steps behind?

What is one of the biggest compliments a leading fashion house can give to a young model? A comparison to supermodels Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell perhaps?

Burberry is clearly impressed by Cara Delevingne and Jourdan Dunn, having both worked alongside the two fashion icons in separate campaigns. Both campaigns in 2014, Burberry’s Spring/Summer 2015 collection was showcased by Jourdan and Naomi and their new perfume named My Burberry was promoted by Cara and Kate.

Naomi and Kate get exposure and show they still have what it takes to model, which is brilliant. When was the last time you saw a woman in her 40’s promote a huge company in international campaigns?

The fashion industry still has a long way to go to get rid of the stigma of age and seeing it as non-detrimental to advertising. Although many high-end make-up brands have been using older ambassadors for their brands recently, high-end fashion has still not reached a point where they regularly use models over 25.

Miuccia Prada has admitted that she is scared to use older models in her shows and campaigns. Miuccia Prada said to T magazine: “Mine is not an artistic world, it is a commercial world. I cannot change the rules.”

Women with the most disposable income are typically aged between 35-55. These brands, although popular with this demographic, could do a lot more to represent these women. It would be a good idea to start appealing to these women through campaigns and shows with women whose age they can relate to. Diversity in age, race or whatever it may be is essential for growth within any industry.

All this aside, Burberry have used these clever campaigns to show us that this is a product we can trust. We trust and know that Naomi and Kate are legendary models, and only promote the best products, but it is also a statement telling us that Jourdan and Cara are the new blood needed in this industry and that they will most likely maintain a long career much like their famous Burberry co-workers.

What can the fashion industry do for BAME women?

According to a Vice article in December: “New York Fashion Week catwalks for A/W 2014, out of 4,621 looks, only 985 were worn by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) models. Of all the models that walked during the week, 78.69 per cent were white.”

Unfortunately, these results are not surprising. I have written blog posts on here before with my own research early last year on A/W Fashion week 2014 and the results were not very different.

So what can the fashion industry do about the lack of ethnicity on catwalks and in fashion campaigns?

Campaigners for the cause such as Naomi Campbell, Iman and Bethann Hardison have been tirelessly promoting the need for diversity, but has anyone been listening?

Last year, Philip Treacey, one of the late Isabela Blow’s protégées, sent an all-Black cast down the runway making a very strong statement. He described the spring/summer 2013 show as “a homage to the African woman and the sensibility to dressing up.”

In 2013, The British Fashion Council told Vogue during London Fashion Week: “All participating designers should recognise that London is one of the most multicultural cities in the world and should consider reflecting this demographic in their shows.”

If more fashion designers realised what a massive market they have amongst women of different ethnicities, we would most likely see a spike in seeing non-caucasian women on these prestigious covers, campaigns and catwalks.

If they were to act as Treacey did and make bold decisions to have an all-Black cast showcase their clothes, the fashion industry could progress faster than any other industry culturally.

UK fashion industry sees positive growth over past five years

London Fashion Week kicked off with a conference on the 14th February this year announcing positive growth in the UK fashion industry.

Chairman of the British Fashion Council, Natalie Massenet, announced figures showing growth in the UK fashion industry over the past five years.

Massenet explained that the direct value of the UK fashion economy is up 22%, increasing from £21 billion in 2009 to £26 billion in 2014. This is good news for the fashion industry. It coincides with the news that the UK is slowing spending more which was apparent over the 2013 Christmas holidays.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “These latest figures are clear evidence of the hugely important contribution that fashion makes to our economy. It is a dynamic industry whose value is increasing thanks to the dazzling creativity of our designers, the brilliant colleges that bring up the next waves of talent and a fast-moving retail sector, which covers the spectrum of great style from bespoke to high street. My office will continue to work with the British Fashion Council to ensure that London remains on the front row in the international fashion stakes.”

Having London host such a major event gives the city solid credibility for its input towards fashion. Tourists worldwide travel to shop at the fashion capital thus proving London to be a big influence on the fashion world. This is very important as tourism is the fifth biggest industry in the UK. It supports more than three million jobs and contributes £127 billion to the country’s GDP each year.

Sam Moore, COO of Oxford Economics said: “Our research underlines the continued and growing importance of the fashion industry’s contribution to the UK economy. Despite, the severe economic headwinds that have confronted British industries since 2009, the growth of the fashion industry is a testament to the popularity of the UK’s fashion industry.”

Fashion Week has increased its contribution to the UK GDP. This shows that there must be higher productivity within the fashion sector, but despite this positive news the industry has seen a drop in employment figures, it is estimated to take on 797,000 jobs. This is a decrease of 2.3% from 2009.

On the official London Fashion Week website, it states: “Fashion’s total contribution to the economy via both indirect support for supply chain industries and induced spending of employee’s wage income is estimated to have risen to over £46 billion. An increase of 23% since 2009 (source: Oxford Economics 2014).”

The bi-yearly event showcases the best designers and their new creations, this time for the Autumn/ Winter 2014 collection. The five days set in various places such as warehouses in Shoreditch (see Giles Deacon), and not so unusual settings (Somerset House), are well known for the beautiful models being churned out to an eager audience and an A-list front row keeping an eye out for new designers, new ideas and new clothes.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osbourne said: “London is about to host one of the central events in the fashion calendar, but more importantly it is about to showcase the world-class talent we have in our fashion industry. It is a testament to the designers, large and small, of the United Kingdom, and to all those who work in the wider retail industry.”

This proves the importance of the fashion sector in the UK and that London Fashion Week should be taken more seriously.

Sasha Wilkins a writer, who has won awards for her blogging (which she does under the pseudonym Liberty London Girl) said during London Fashion Week: “For the record: I am quite capable of intelligent discourse, whilst wearing said pretty frock. Loving fashion does not atrophy one’s brain.”

To read the statistics on the fashion industry on Fashion United’s website click here.

For London Fashion Week’s official website click here.

Why fashion still has issues with race.

Having already written a blog on the issue of diversity in fashion, I think it is only appropriate to look back at London Fashion Week’s choice in models and question why there wasn’t more diversity on the runway this season.

With 75 different designers showcasing their talents during London Fashion Week (14th February – 18th February), you have to wonder why there was still so little ethnicity in these shows. With the vast number of models walking, the scale and the importance of these shows, shouldn’t the fashion industry be held accountable to fairly represent everyone in the very city that hosts the five-day spectacle?

Hadley Freeman, a writer for the Guardian, wrote: “Many have suggested that the reason catwalks and magazines are so White is that designers and editors are often White, but I suspect the phrase “follow the money” is more relevant. Asian models have become more prominent with the rise of the Asian market for luxury goods. Same with Russian models. The fashion industry simply doesn’t envisage its goods being bought by Black customers and therefore doesn’t bother trying to relate to them. So it’s not (always) that the fashion industry thinks that only White people are beautiful, as many have understandably assumed. It thinks that only White and some Asian people have money.”

London is one of the worlds most ethnically diverse cities. With a population of 8.174 million people in the city, 3.3 million of London’s population are Black or part of other ethnic minorities whilst 4.9 million Londoners are White. With the influence the fashion world has, and the amount of money generated from fashion week alone, it is sad not to see these numbers being represented.

Joan Smalls, the first Latina model to be the face of Estee Lauder and who has done campaigns for Gucci, Fendi, and Givenchy, told ELLE magazine in January: “Fashion should be about creativity and visionaries, and last time I checked, the world is a multicultural place. Why shouldn’t a little girl from Puerto Rico see the runway and think, I can wear that? People hide behind the word aesthetic. They say, ‘Well, it’s just that designer’s aesthetic.’ But when you see 18 seasons in a row and not one single model outside a certain skin colour…? There are people in the industry who are advocates, who support diversity. And there are people who do not. I don’t get it. Beauty is universal. These doors have to open.”

Even though there was a clear lack of diversity, it doesn’t mean that there were none at all. The Sunday Times reported that none of the autumn/winter 2014 shows featured an all-white cast, an improvement from the spring/ summer 2014 collection that still had a few designers, including Victoria Beckham, only feature white models.

The British Fashion Council (BFC) has had pressure to up the ante on the topic of diversity. The BFC sends out letters every season to specifically ask designers to mirror London’s Black and ethnic population on the runway.

The BFC said: “Shows should reflect the capital’s diversity and we are looking into ways to monitor equality.”

British supermodel Naomi Campbell and veteran model Iman, launched the Diversity Coalition last October which campaigns for equality in fashion. An open letter was written criticising the fashion industry for the predominantly White shows and personally calling out designers who did not use any models of diversity. Both models have faced adversity in the past despite their successes.

Chanel Iman told the Times in 2013: “A few times I got excused by designers who told me, ‘We already found one Black girl. We don’t need you any more.’ I felt very discouraged.”

Joan Smalls was once told by a casting agent: “You’re a Black model. It’s a challenge.”

In 2014, why is it still so hard for such a successful industry to fairly represent a whole demographic? Although London shows this season had more models from different backgrounds, there is still a lot of work to be done. With such a striving Black and ethnic community in London, the fashion industry is not appealing to a wider audience outside of the norm and therefore is missing out on a whole segment of the market.

For Joan Small’s interview in Elle click here.

For Hadley Freeman’s article “Why Black models are rarely in fashion” click here.

For Jezebel’s article on how many Black models were featured at New York Fashion week click here.

Social Media in Fashion

Designers and models have been making headlines due to the ongoing fashion shows at the four major fashion capitals of the world, New York, London, Milan and Paris, particularly on social media.

On the eve of various fashion week shows, sneak peeks of a designer’s wares are broadcasted all over the internet for the world to see. When it finally comes to the big day every writer, editor and model have their phone glued to their hands, watching the show through an iPhone lens, Tweeting and Instagramming every detail of the exclusive shows.

Although this gives the non-fashion elite a front-row seat without physically being there, has this changed the role of the fashion show?

Martin Raymond founder of trend – forecasting agency The Future Laboratory said to Vogue’s Sarah Harris: “It’s a spectacle and a social media push. The catwalk show has moved into the arena of culture and awe. I remember Angela Ahrendts, now at Apple – one of the things she said while she was CEO at Burberry was: ‘We are no longer in the business of fashion, we are in the business of entertainment.’ The idea of spending a million on a West End show is nothing, spending that on a film is a drop in the ocean, so the notion of spending a million on a fashion show is relative.”

The fashion industry uses social media to its full potential. It has helped them to forecast fashion trends, consequently securing future sales. By using social media, designers can promote their line, and interact with other useful contacts who just by association can increase interest from third parties.

Ruth Chapman, CEO of matchesfashion.com said: “This global gathering generates theatre and drama, and via street style photography it engages and inspires our customers too.”

According to Reuters, clothing chain, Topshop gained the largest online audience for a live-streamed London fashion show with 2,000,000 viewers tuning in from more than 100 countries to watch the latest collection from Topshop Unique.

Justin Cooke, Topshop’s chief marketing officer, told Reuters: “People have been trying to figure out for some time, how do you make these ‘likes’ into something relevant, how does the social aspect mix with your brand, and I think we are going to be the first brand to unlock that, we’re going to be the case study…(to) commercialise that social audience.”

Topshop was able to see directly how the live coverage being streamed online helped their sales, as avid watchers were able to immediately purchase the looks on the runway. Many items, including a dress which was the first look on the runway, sold out before the show was even over.

Lucy Yeomans, editor-in-chief of fashion retail site Net-A-Porter.com and former editor of UK’s Harper’s Bazaar. told Reuters: “I think anyone who doesn’t tap into the power of social media is just missing a massive trick, it’s not just a marketing tool.”

House of Holland and Alice Temperley have also used online marketing strategies to showcase their lines to a wider audience.

For the full article on Reuters click here.

Kendall Jenner walks for Marc Jacobs at New York Fashion Week

18-year-old Kendall Jenner of E!’s Keeping up with the Kardashians fame, made her fashion week debut this week at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week at Armory, New York on Thursday 13th February.

She walked the catwalk in a risqué V-neck jumper, exposing her nipples, whilst sporting a brunette bob and very pale makeup, for the highly influential fashion house Marc Jacobs for his highly anticipated Autumn/ Winter 2014 collection.

One Twitter fan expressed dismay by tweeting: “Kendall Jenner doesn’t need to dress like that.”

Her elder half-sister Khloe Kardashian retaliated tweeting: “She’s too dope for you 2 understand! Yall would trade places with her in a second! The hate is real! Lol bye haters! #ModelLife”

Some said the outfit was unsuitable for an 18-year-old to wear, as she is barely legal, (she became 18 on November 3rd last year) but although 18 is young, Jenner can legally make her own decisions and she is not the first model to do so. Kate MossNaomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford have all bared their bodies for the sake of fashion for covers, campaigns and runways at a young age.

Despite all this Jenner did not seem fazed by the negativity, and shared her happiness with People: “I think that it was all incredible. I’m literally living my dream right now, so I think that it was all a dream come true and it was amazing. It still really doesn’t feel real, but it’s all amazing.”

Jenner had a busy few weeks as she walked for British designer, Giles Deacon, for his autumn/winter line at the London Fashion show in a Shoreditch warehouse the following week.

Jenner may also have a new ally in the fashion world. Anna Wintour editor in chief of American Vogue was sitting front row for Marc Jacob’s show, a longtime Vogue favourite. The following week both Wintour and Jenner sat next to each other front row for Topshop at London Fashion Week.

Laurel Pinson, editor in chief of StyleCaster said: “Anna is very savvy about upcoming ‘It girls,’ and very much has her finger on the pulse. When she takes a girl under her wing, a Vogue cover or high fashion campaign is usually on the way. She’s done it for a lot of girls, like Rooney Mara and Taylor Swift.”

A Marc Jacob’s campaign may also be within Jenner’s reach, Jacob’s has used fellow aspiring starlets for his worldwide campaigns such as Miley Cyrus and Dakota Fanning.

Kendall Jenner has been signed to The Society Management since November, which also represents Victoria’s Secret model Adriana Lima. Prior to that, she worked with the famous Wilhelmina agency since the age of 14. She has also featured on magazines such as Teen Vogue and is an ambassador for Seventeen Magazine.