Wednesday, February 24, 2010

London Fashion Week might finally be waking up

Last weekend it looked as though London Fashion Week might finally be waking up to what real women want when designer Mark Fast sent plus-size models down the runway.

Had the fashion world learnt its lesson - that most of us cannot identify with hollow-cheeked, twiglet-legged, coat hanger models? Had it hell.

How do I know? Because our family has first-hand experience of the fashion world's dogged obsession with 'thin' - not slim, not healthy but the sort of bone protruding skinniness that makes people turn around and do a second take.

It should have been a highlight of our 17-year-old daughter Madeline's young life. Amid choruses of car horns and wolf whistles from passers-by, this stunning 6ft tall schoolgirl, a whisker under 9st, went bouncing into her modelling agency, Profile in Covent Garden, buzzing at the prospect of the string of castings she was due to attend for her first London Fashion Week, with several of the agency's other teenage new faces.

The girls, all tall, leggy and faun-like, slipped on their high platform shoes and body-hugging mini-dresses (regulation wear for castings) and began a catwalk training session, coached by two experienced Profile models and Madeline's cheerful, motherly model booker Sam Cookson.

Madeline was on a high after a shoot at the weekend in London with a cuttingedge Welsh photographer, Grant Thomas, and influential stylist Debbie Lerner. The eye-popping images had been posted on his website and brought more offers of work, boosting our once painfully shy teenager's confidence.

So, as she strutted down the Profile catwalk, hips forward, shoulders back, listening intently as she was taught to hold the pose on the turn, Madeline looked to my untutored eye to be a natural.

She was rangy and graceful after years of netball training, with endless legs and a hint of haughtiness (which was actually a slight frown of concentration).

Next moment, however, an anxious-looking Sam beckoned her into a side room. Out of sight of the other girls, she talked quietly, a consoling arm round Madeline's slight shoulders. Her face fell. I could tell she was trying desperately not to cry and I knew something was wrong.

It's no good,' Sam was saying. 'There's absolutely no point in you doing London Fashion Week. You're gorgeous, you've got the 'wow' factor and photographers love you, but you've put on weight since the summer.

'It's quite natural - most 16 and 17-year-olds' weight fluctuates because of hormonal changes - but if you're an inch over size 8, you'll be torn to shreds. Those queeny designers and their scouts would make your life hell and it could destroy your confidence.'

Seeing my crest-fallen daughter, another model stepped in to try to comfort her. 'The fashion world is awful,' she said. 'They all demand size zero models - what they really want is surrogate boys. It's not just the camp male designers. Some of the women are just as hard.

'However young a girl is, they don't just say "Thanks but no thanks" if they don't want to use you. They're incredibly insulting and personal and can make even very promising models feel utterly worthless.'



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