You know that feeling when things are bubbling away in your head and you realise that, like that fresh bottle of SodaStream tonic water you made yesterday afternoon, there is only room for so many bubbles in a bottle?
Yes, that feeling.
That’s what’s been happening in my head over the past few days.
For those not living in the biggest bubble of them all – the fashion bubble – Australia’s Fashion Week has been happening this week in Sydney.
It’s an industry-only event that attracts buyers and media interested in getting a preview on the next season’s fashion collections from some of Australia’s top designers.
Fashion Week is not a small affair and it costs thousands for designers to get involved. They get involved to get noticed.
What tends to get noticed more than the clothes every year is the size – or lack thereof – of the models wearing the clothes.
This is what gets most reported by mainstream media during Fashion Week.
Rightly so, I say. But I also say, why limit the debate about underweight models to just one week every year?
The pin-up girl/scapegoat for this year’s debate is Cassi Van Den Dungen – a former runner-up in TV show Australia’s Next Top Model. Cassi arrived back in Sydney, fresh from working in Paris and on to the runway for the Alex Perry show.
Cassi Van Den Dungen for Alex Perry MBFWA 2014 | Photo Getty Images
Alex even went on morning television yesterday morning and said he should never had cast her in his show. He takes full blame and says it was a “serious lapse of judgement”.
Marie Claire editor Jackie Frank got straight on the phone to Cassi’s agent after the show and said, “why is that girl walking down the runway when she’s clearly not healthy?”.
Personally, I think that the only person who really knows if another person is healthy is their GP or health care provider – and that applies to all people of all weights – but I think Jackie’s phone call was a significant one.
Alex’s admission was significant too.
Jackie’s and Alex’s actions won’t change an industry overnight.
They may register a blip but if that blip is at all strong enough to get those within the fashion industry talking and acting then I’m going to add my weight to the debate too.
To understand the magnitude of what we’re dealing with here if change were to happen, you need to understand how the fashion industry works.
And when I say understand, I don’t expect you too u-n-d-e-r-s-t-a-n-d it. Because to understand it means that we – the fashion consumer – have to attempt to make some sense of an industry that makes little sense at all.
The players are all heavily invested in the industry and rely on each other to keep it ticking over each season.
So, who are the main players?
The fashion designers and the fashion magazines.
The designers’ PR agencies, modelling agencies and their models play the support acts.
Let me explain in a nutshell how it wall works. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation but I’ll give it a shot.
A designer creates a new fashion collection. Once the designs are designed, they are made into “samples”.
These samples are generally cut to a size 6 or 8 pattern. (There is only one designer I know who does this differently – and always done so. Queensland designer Sacha Drake also cuts and creates a size 14 at this sample stage.)
Those samples are used to sell the collection to retailers – a second set of samples is held in-house or at the designers’ PR agency as garments to loan to media – mostly magazines – for fashion shoots and spreads.
When the magazines choose a designers’ garments for a shoot, they then seek out models for that shoot. The models have to fit those samples.
See the circle that’s in place? It’s a vicious one and it’s not just happening in Australia, it’s worldwide.
For real change to happen, the main players – and the supporting acts – all need to agree to the change with a united and global front.
I live in hope that that will happen. I have to have that hope.
Hope that the next generation of fashion lovers have role models who are fit, athletic and healthy.
Hope that the current generation of fashion lovers has something offered to them that is not an unattainable ideal.
Because it’s an unattainable ideal that we have to work with right now.
We are all mostly visual people. This means that we need the visual to help us understand a concept. In this case that concept is understanding and imagining how a fashion garment might look on us.
Do you think the current fashion industry players help us with that?
We are presented an image of a woman wearing an outfit that mostly would not fit our lifestyles. That’s if the outfit even fit us in the first place.
And that image is one of a young woman. Even if the label or brand in question is not aimed at young women.
Very few labels market to their demographic with a campaign that speaks to their customer.
It’s no wonder that my Model and Me posts – posts I’ve been writing for almost three years – continue to have a popular following.
All I’m doing is offering a size 14-16 alternative. What this does is give women a visual cue other than the size 6-8 one they’re served up.
What it also does is sell clothes.
In the past couple of years some online retailers have also invested to offer a different sizing visual.
I’d like to see more. Many more.
It flips the fashion marketing model on its head, putting buying power in our hands – the consumer.
With this kind of power comes influence. And with influence comes change.
Global change to the way the fashion industry conducts itself has to start somewhere.
I can’t think of a better place than with the very people who want to buy the end product. Can you?
I’d love to hear your thoughts? On underweight models? On the way fashion is marketed to you? On designers or brands who you think make it easier for you to visualise yourself in a garment? Share in the comments below.