#Fashion4All: Join Our Campaign to Champion Diversity on the Catwalk

01/02/2016 12:19 GMT | Updated 01/02/2017 10:12 GMT


A love of fashion can be empowering - it can bring moments of great joy and bolster confidence.

Just ask Anna Wintour, who is often quoted as saying: "If you can't be better than your competition, just dress better."

Or think about why this famous Marilyn Monroe quote holds such resonance: "Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world."

But what if you look at catwalks and advertising campaigns, and feel the implied suggestion that you're not welcome here?


A uniform selection of models conveys the message you're not welcome here

At the Spring 2016 New York, London, Paris and Milan fashion weeks, 77.6% of 9,926 catwalk appearances were white models, according to figures from The Fashion Spot.

Plus-size models accounted for just .1% of the total, transgender models made up .06% and models over the age of 50 made up .05%.

Models with disabilities were similarly under-represented, one in six people in Britain are disabled, but you wouldn't know it from how disability is represented by fashion and beauty brands, as you could have counted the number of models with disabilities at the last run of fashion weeks on one hand.

What does it matter if all catwalk models are of a singular type? Well for one thing, this lack of diversity is always going to pull focus from the designs and convey the message that the clothes are only intended to be worn by a very narrow segment of the audience.

When we launched HuffPost UK Style in May 2015, one of our founding principles was that we wanted to provide exclusive information that's inclusive of the whole audience.

Unlike print publications we have the luxury of not being beholden to the demands of advertisers, which gives us the freedom to push boundaries. And sadly the boundaries of what is conventionally considered beautiful are still very narrow.

However, there is a glimmer of change that's glowing increasingly bright - 22.4% non-white models at the Spring 2016 shows is an increase on the 17% at the Spring 2015 fashion weeks.

To bring focus onto the people spearheading this change, last September our American colleagues launched their #NYFW4All campaign to highlight fashion week moments that celebrated diversity, and we followed up with #LFW4All, which celebrated the likes of the Zulkifli sisters, founders of Mimpikita, who made their fashion week debut wearing hijabs on the catwalk.

This time around we've decided to make Fashion For All our focus for the whole of February and we are partnering with Models of Diversity (MOD), who are fierce advocates of diverse beauty as founder Angel Sinclair explains:

"If fashion is about anything, surely it's about the new, the cutting edge and leading the public's idea of form and design. Yet when it comes to choice of models, it lags behind its consumers' recognition for the potential of beauty in all of us regardless of shape, size, race, gender definition, age and not least, disability.

"At present the UK is very reserved when it comes to disability in fashion. We are way behind a number of countries including the US, where models with disabilities are employed alongside regular models for brand campaigns such as Nordstrum and Diesel.

"In my eyes the UK should be setters not followers when it comes to fashion; we have such a big presence within fashion, that it's crazy that in 2016 we are still fighting for equality. But unfortunately this is the case."

Let's be clear: our aim isn't to shame or harass the fashion industry into change, but rather to champion those individuals and organisations who are already doing a great job of promoting diversity.

We'll be speaking to models Winnie Harlow and Kelly Knox, as well as sharing personal blogs from Jameela Jamil, Jack Eyers and key industry insiders, including models, designers and modelling agency executives.

We will be sharing moments of colour, size, gender and age diversity and disability inclusivity at London Fashion Week with the hashtag #LFW4All and we'd like to invite you to do the same.

Or if you'd like to blog about diversity or get involved, email us here.