22 January 2014

We've been conditioned to think that only skinny people can be beautiful

Scrolling through H&M’s latest beachwear collection, modelled by Jennie Runk, it’s difficult not to wonder where the thigh gaps and flat stomachs are for a minute.  However, that soon passes as you’re struck by just how beautiful Runk looks paddling around on a desert island.  Smiling as she runs her hands through the sea, she looks the personification of summer holiday bliss.

Runk in H&M+

I find it slightly bizarre that we’ve been conditioned to think only skinny people can be beautiful. It’s not like we’ve even had a choice. The only models we are ever shown are devoid of any fat at all, so who are we to know that other body types can also be beautiful? And most shops sell clothes up to a size 16, usually, but these are only ever photographed on models that are a slim size 8 – or smaller.

The public have applauded H&M’s brave use of a plus-size model in their advertising, but Runk is only modelling their H&M+ range. Click on the brand’s general swimwear pages, and you return to the familiar world of girls that are light enough to be carried on a male model’s shoulders. At a size 16, Runk is actually small enough to fit into H&M’s standard ranges. and H&M+ caters for sizes 18-28, meaning that Runk’s size doesn’t accurately reflect the collection she is modelling. What message is that giving to the target consumers if the model in the campaign is smaller than the lowest end of the size range?
H&M's mainline swimwear
Even worse, designer labels often don’t sell clothes larger than a size 12 or 14. Considering that the average woman in the UK is a size 16, are they confined to only shopping on the high street? Relegated to catwalk trends interpreted in polyester – and potentially manufactured in a sweatshop? Is it fair for women who don’t conform to standard sizing to be forced to choose from a limited selection? As a society, there’s no denying that we are getting bigger. Being overweight is by no means healthy, and perhaps this is something that should be considered when judging the image put forward by the fashion industry. With numbers of obese children at worrying levels, maybe it would be wrong to use overweight models in advertising campaigns.
Mark Fast uses plus-size models for his catwalk show
I’m not sure there is a right or wrong answer to the problem of choosing sizing in clothing ranges or models. However, I think as a culture we really need to move on from judging people by how they look. As well as plus size being thought of as ugly, there is now a backlash against skinny people. Magazines attack women for being too fat, then criticise them when they lose weight. I fear for how this trend may develop in the future, and how it will affect teenage girls as they grow and develop. This hatred towards women and their bodies has got to stop.
First published on Running in Heels.

18 January 2014

Have style bloggers sold out to the lure of big fashion brands?

Once upon a time, street style photography captured fashion at its finest: self expression rendered in a mix of high street and designer, vintage and customised clothes. For a few seconds as you scrolled Facehunter or flicked through a magazine, you had a fleeting insight into a stranger’s personality and the image that they wanted to project to the world.
Today, however, marketing has found its way into the arena of sartorial individuality. Fashion bloggers too numerous to name (and I won’t shame them here) have fallen prey to the ‘sponsored post’ – meaning that they’re paid by brands to feature their products. Some brands even tell bloggers what to write, and even worse – there are a few bloggers that don’t explain to their readers that they’ve been paid to create a post. And those spontaneous street style photographs? Many are now a bland tick list of designer pieces that have been strategically gifted to bloggers to ensure brand exposure. You can’t buy style. Or can you?
Not all bloggers fit into the fashion cookie cutter though. There are still blogs out there that inspire and delight readers with their unique insights and opinions on clothes and how to put them together. Here are some of my personal favourites…
Sydney-based Hannah-Rose Yee of Capture the Castle writes about clothes with a poetic beauty and a sense of wonder that make you hope that one day she will write a novel. A mix of travel photography, cinematic style analysis and extracts from fiction, with a healthy dose of food porn thrown in for good measure; hers is not a daily #ootd outlet. Hannah-Rose delves into the beauty of simple dressing and reveals the infallible feeling that follows the discovery of the perfect Breton top.

Dylana Suarez of Colour Me Nana is a So-Cal girl living in Philadelphia, and she has kept her surf country roots close to her heart. Just as likely to quote Fleetwood Mac lyrics as she is to wear denim cut-offs in the middle of winter, Dylana’s outfit posts perfectly capture her free spirited hippie style. Also worth a visit is her model sister Natalie’s blog Natalie Off Duty.

Ellie Loughran of Pretty Much Penniless gives an honest account of her experiences of living in London without being able to afford a new designer handbag each year (or lifetime). Her creative ways of looking continually elegant and also her homemade preparations for her upcoming wedding are crammed with inspiration for anyone looking to update their look on a (very) small budget.

I am still a firm believer in the fashion blog: its universal accessibility allows people who might otherwise have slipped under the fashion radar to have a platform to share their style. While some may have been corrupted by advertising and sponsorship, others take blog ethics seriously and go on to triumph over big business and shine through their originality.
First published on Running in Heels.