THE BLOG

Can We Stop Slagging Off Marks and Spencer Please?

25/03/2014 10:57 GMT | Updated 25/05/2014 10:59 BST

Marks and Spencer is fast becoming - if it hasn't already become - the fashion industry's favourite whipping boy/girl.

Watch the claws come out around its second Leading Ladies campaign, as columnists furiously tap away their thoughts about why it sucks, what it did wrong and what M&S needs to do to be successful.

But seriously, it's getting a bit tiring.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not a fan of M&S's fashion and by and large I agree with a lot of what the editors say about the need to focus on basics, the core audience and to take its eye off the fashion catwalks and back onto its consumers.

But I feel that with every campaign, every attempt to get it right, it seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to denounce what they are trying to do.

Take Leading Ladies.

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What other major UK brand is doing anything similar? John Lewis? No - their budget is taking up with cartoons of bears and hares. BHS? House of Fraser?

All brilliant brands, but with the exception of TK Maxx - who recently featured their own shoppers of all ages in a beautifully-shot campaign - what other companies are championing a diverse range of women?

You've got women who are are the top of their game in their respective fields that require a skill - chef Rachel Khoo, broadcaster Roma Agrawal who's a structural engineer, Baroness Lawrence - Stephen Lawrence's mother - who has tirelessly campaigned for racial justice and equality and designer Lulu Kennedy.

But rather than say, hey, well done, you've got slightly snide comments such as those made in the Telegraph saying most 'regular women' won't recognise this line-up.

Well so what? Are they implying that women are that thick, that we won't be interested in the story behind these women?

Clearly, M&S are damned if you do choose famous faces such as Ryan Reynolds, damned if you don't.

In my opinion, what the campaign is trying to say is that women are complex, that we are more than just our surface areas.

Yes, M&S is trying to flog a load of clothes, but these women - even the traditional celebs like Annie Lennox, who is a human rights campaigner and supermodel Alek Wek who describes herself as an 'activist' - make me feel glad they are being celebrated.

A big find from our Conversation Changers campaign, from all the women we've spoken to in politics, food, comedy and media, has been the importance of role models. So - little girls seeing women they admire and wanting to be like them.

I'm not saying Leading Ladies will end world hunger or poverty, but it puts women of substance at the fore. And I'd much rather they were these women, then reality TV stars or women who only make money from being beautiful.