Its Paris Fashion week and the whole city is a flutter with achingly styled designers and lofty young girls not to mention Kim Kardashian's new blonde hair. I had the weirdest and totally random encounter with Tommy Hilfiger who stood on a chair at my table in a restaurant to take a photo of the beams above.
Jollity and sparkles aside it is also a sobering time for it focuses the media lens on image and looks. Hours are spent watching painfully think mannequins walk up and down catwalks, bluntly put. That's only half of it, then in Nero style, Anna Wintour and the other 'judge and jury' will yey or nay the new collection.
Ironically we had International Women's Day on Sunday slap bang in the middle of it all. All the promises and commitments to giving girls a better future and empowering women to do more are thrown out the window when they are then used as clothes horses. What message does that send to our teen daughters!?
But there is another more nurturing side to fashion that I discovered recently. Most would assume these girls are oozing confidence but I learnt having met a few that they are as complexed about their bodies and faces as average Jo. They are often taller than their classmates and get picked on for being freaky looking. They also have to manage a steep and often overnight rise to fame and that can be vertiginous. I assumed modelling agencies did nothing about all of this but I was pleased to hear the opposite.
For instance Elite Models who run a contest to find the new top faces around the world include mentoring into their selection process. The brief of the agent is not just success it is also compassion and guidance. All the questions we have - am I good enough, am I pretty enough, are my legs slim enough, are multiplied because they are judged above all by their physical form. It is far from 'perfect' but until fashion labels change their 'size 6' policy it is better than nothing. One model I talked to ate like a horse, a surprising and happy discovery given all the stories of cotton wool ball diets. She had always been skinny and had been accused of being bulimic due to her passion for fries. But she is rare, many are on minimal fat intake and even then they are airbrushed.
What to do for you daughters, nieces and goddaughters? The answer is surround them with positive role models, those that are outspoken about image obsession, Jamelia Jamil on Radio 1, Emma Watson about gender equality. Social networks are full of glamourised selfies and thigh gaps, trout pouts and bikini bridges so any guardian of a child needs to be an active steward of all this material.
Fashion shows should be full of women of all shapes and sizes. And catwalks should be conversations with interesting personalities rather than peacock displays. Dove have begun the battle with their self-esteem campaign, Debenhams have used normal sized mannequins but we are still a long way from what's healthy. Perhaps Valentino had the best idea this year by allowing Zoolander's Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller to crash the runway.
Join the mission, make beauty more than skin, teeth and hair. #beautyontheinside