Caryn Franklin’s ongoing commitment and passion, along with Debra Bourne and model Erin O’Connor, to promote and celebrate greater diversity within the fashion industry, resulted in the founding of an initiative entitled All Walks Beyond the Catwalk. Endorsed by the British Fashion Council and drawing support from iconic photographer Rankin, this is the first time such a movement has been seriously embraced by the industry as a whole.
Franklin is currently dedicating 75% of her time working on the initiative that is now into its third year and campaigning stronger than ever to remove the ‘increasingly narrow ideals’ too often projected by the media. Far from being critical about the fashion industry, Franklin stresses how designers and editors never set out to undermine women’s bodies. She highlights how in the past, only a handful of women would have visited an intimate and highly exclusive fashion show and magazines were bought sparingly. In contrast, the digital age exposes consumers to an enormous amount of imagery and it is inevitable women and men absorb the projected ideals more intensely. ‘Young women now see more images of unachievable beauty in one day than our mother’s generation did in their entire adolescense’ Caryn states. ‘Women judge themselves so harshly, as though they have received a prescribed ideal from the fashion industry to do so. But this was never the intention.’
Fashion Week aside, much of Franklin’s focus has turned to targeting education, where the current ideals are initially moulded by young student designers. By using a tailor’s dummy to pin silhouettes of fabric, students must subsequently source models whose measurements meet the same tiny specifications. ‘We need to broaden the student’s understanding of how design works with the body. Ensuring they receive feedback from ordinary women throughout the design process who will actually wear the clothes, is one way of encouraging this.’
All Walks Beyond the Catwalk has recruited a wealth of support from fashion practicioners and the concept is spreading successfully. Three colleges have already agreed to include diversity modules within their curricular with a further twelve colleges keen to collaborate.
It is not just body shape and ethnicity Franklin hopes to address, but also age issues. ‘Women must not be fearful of age’ Franklin states in response to the anxiety and continued negativity affecting women as young as thirty. ‘Beauty ages beautifully’ she says simply, ‘our models need to be strong, physical role models and our job at All Walks Beyond the Catwalk is to stress the importance of developing this concept. We are about operating from the heart in a thoughtful way so that in five years from now, it will be an extremely different scenario.’
Thanks to Caryn Franklin.
All Walks Beyond the Catwalk: www.allwalks.org