The Blog

Let's Be Friends, Fashion's Latest Trend #LFW AW16

Having worked at the fashion coalface for over 15 years, as a photographer, PR and writer, I now balance on the edge of the bubble, peeping in. I advise retail clients on how to respond to their customers changing needs.

There is nothing ground-breaking here. No big fashion secrets being revealed, or information from a reliable source. If you're looking for grand historical references, then look to loftier fashion heights.

During the recent shows, I thought about how a writer's view can become focused inwards, towards the industry point of view. You write about the industry, for the industry. Having broadened the way in which I work, I've noticed a shift in my focus surrounding fashion week. I look to the shows as a reflection of societal changes. This approach can be far more interesting than looking only at the clothes, and as informative as picking up a copy of Psychology Today.

Having worked at the fashion coalface for over 15 years, as a photographer, PR and writer, I now balance on the edge of the bubble, peeping in. I advise retail clients on how to respond to their customers changing needs.

At this time of the year, my kitchen table soaks up the fashion secrets of industry friends, which often revolve around talk of "the brand" "the man behind the brand" or "shifting sales calendars". Which can become not only dull, but also elitist, and ultimately lacking focus on what, you and me, the buyer of clothes really want. But something struck me about this season's chat more than ever - and that was that the consumer was the focal point of these discussions.

Last October I was called by The Huffington Post Style to comment on the latest BoF diversity report. At that point 79% of the models in the S/S '16 shows were white. Back then I said:

Let's remain positive. I am hopeful that with passionate trailblazers in the diversity movement continuing to work hard to highlight the need for change, I think that we will see a truer reflection of society on the catwalks each season.

I was more optimistic than other commentators, but couldn't predict how quickly that the demand for change was having affect.

There is a definite 'let's be friends' theme happening, regardless of how mainstream or niche the writer or designer is, and in spite of their skin colour. And for this I am joyous! Delighted that I no longer have to wait for these issues to be discussed by someone, anyone, in the industry. Inclusion is this season's biggest trend.

A highlight of the season, for me, is listening to the SHOWstudio live debates. This week my ears pricked up during the Alexander McQueen panel discussion. I wasn't hearing the usual industry heavyweights discuss what the show meant to them. Instead they ruminated on what the shows meant to consumers. Average Joes. It was invigorating. This derailment could have been due to Caryn Franklin being on the panel, bringing with her a loyal focus on the 'real' customer. That said, the panelists talked about how fashion affects the people in their own lives, those within and outside the industry. They talked about the small proportion of people that could actually afford to buy the clothes. They, themselves may own the odd designer piece, but these are usually gifted by the designers, or brought at cost price. They acknowledged the stratospheric cost of these garments that prevent their peers from buying anything but the brand's perfume, or the odd skull scarf. They also challenged the relevance of catwalk shows altogether, saying "Who are they really for? and "What do shows mean to your average person on the street?"

This is part of the wider diversity debate, which over the past few years has been gaining momentum. Increasingly, casting directors, designers and mainstream journalists are accepting that the debate also belongs to them. We have seen writers such as Sali Hughes pen features titled "The problem with black skin". Here, she supports model Leomie Anderson's disappointment at the Victoria Secret show, where the make-up artist did not have products to make up her dark skin. Sali made the point that this is an issue the cosmetic industry needs to face:

There's nothing unique or, frankly, even shocking about the story. The depressing reality is that Caucasian-only make-up products are par for the course, even in 2016.

In New York, Zac Posen gave a strong nod to the cause by casting mainly black models in his show. As this was going on, my thoughts swirled from one exciting development to another, and I remembered how different the industry looked when I cut my teeth back in the early 90's. It was a confusing time. As an Ango-African Fashion PR tomboy, I related more to images of Kate Moss' in her messy bedsit than to Naomi Campbells' luxury look, complete with expensive hair extensions. Back then, I imported cosmetic products from the US, whereas now my local Boots has all I need. I devoured i-D, as it reflected my experience more than Vogue ever could.

As a mother of a young daughter, who recently looked at Vogue for the first time, I wonder if I need worry so much about the effect of fashion images on her self-esteem? As she grows up, will I continue to dig high and low for images that reflect her experience, or tear pages out of magazines with photos of women that look like her? Perhaps there will be little need to point out every brown-skinned ballerina or scientist, as I have been. I hope that when she turns on the TV, as I did this week, she will see more girls like Neelam Gill presenting shows for the BBC. When she buys her first lipstick, we will have moved on from the debilitating debates we endured this week surrounding Mac Cosmetics model Aamito Lagum. The industry now has agencies like Roadcasting, who manage diverse models for mainstream campaigns. When my daughter turns on the TV, the ads will include girls that look like her.

Hopefully, we will have moved on from Beyonce needing to fight for the cause in pop videos. A time where all of us can enjoy fashion, music and beauty imagery for what they are; creative expressions that connect us all.