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Diversity Progress In Fashion Is A Step Forward But There's No Time To Be Complacent

24/02/2017 17:30 GMT | Updated 24/02/2017 17:37 GMT
NIKLAS HALLE'N via Getty Images

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Diversity in fashion, on the catwalk or in advertising, has been an issue for a while. Members of the body positivity movement have worked hard to raise much needed awareness of the lack of models in the industry who reflect society as it is today with all its different shapes, sizes, skin tones, ages, genders, ethnicities and disabilities.

The campaign to see more real people has certainly picked up momentum and this year's London Fashion Week seems to have finally got the message. Or so it seems.

It's no secret that we urgently need greater diversity in the fashion industry with our nation being on the brink of a body image crisis.

Only 40% of people like the way they look and almost a third of young people in school don't want to take part in activities like PE because of their appearance. More than one third of young women want to look like models they see in adverts, further proving that the fashion industry has a responsibility to promote a healthy body image and reflect the true diversity of our population.

As a founding partner of the Be Real Campaign, a body confidence campaign created by Dove and YMCA England, I was pleased to see a variety of different ages, races, sizes and bodies walk the catwalk at London Fashion Week over the past four days. It was a refreshing sight, after our campaign raised concerns of the re-emergence of ultra-thin models just last year, and called on the fashion industry to sign up to the Be Real Body Image Pledge to prove its commitment to tackling body image anxiety last week.

While there has been some notable progress, those who are content with the recent improvement should buckle up. The real work starts now and there really is no time to be complacent.

While brands such as Simone Rocha featured three older models, super model Winnie Harlow known for her skin condition vitiligo walked the runway for designer Matty Bovan, and Teatum Jones included models with visible disabilities such as Be Real Campaign Ambassador Kelly Knox, these show-stopping moments only stood out because they are exactly that, outstanding, and not yet the norm.

There are more than 6.9 million people with disabilities in the UK, while the average size in the UK is a size 16, and more than a third of the total UK population is aged over 50 years old. Constantly being bombarded with only one body type, particularly an extremely thin and young body, risks creating damaging pressure for people to attempt to become something they're not.

While there's nothing wrong with being naturally slim and tall, it's not representative of what our society looks like, leading to greater anxiety and fear among people of not being able to live up to what's considered beautiful.

As London Fashion Week just wrapped up this week and diversity in the fashion industry and body positivity is still on everyone's minds, now is the time to make diversity a priority and not just a box ticking exercise in the fashion industry.

Progress should be celebrated, but only if we continue to move forward. Let's make sure that different shapes, ethnicities, ages, bodies and genders are what we expect at each and every fashion event and in advertising campaigns, rather than outstanding achievements praised and celebrated for challenging the status quo. Only then will people feel represented and acknowledged leading to a truly body confident nation.

This February, HuffPost UK Style is running a month-long focus on our Fashion For All campaign, which aims to highlight moments of colour, size, gender and age diversity and disability inclusivity in the fashion and beauty world.

We will be sharing moments of diversity at London Fashion Week with the hashtag #LFW4All and we'd like to invite you to do the same. If you'd like to blog about diversity or get involved, email us here.