All Walks Beyond the Catwalk

The Fashion industry is often blamed for the body image and self esteem issues faced by young people today. All Walks Beyond the Catwalk is campaigning to get people in the fashion industry to debate these issues in an effort to initiate change.

Caryn Franklin started All Walks at London Fashion Week in September 2009, where 8 diverse models showcased the work of 8 emerging designers. Since then, the campaign has gathered pace and is now commanding the attention more people than ever.

Taken from the All Walks Website... The project kick-started in May, when Susan Ringwood, the Chief Executive of the eating disorders charity Beat, asked, “Was it possible to show fashion on a range of inspiring bodies?”

Founders Caryn Franklin, Debra Bourne and Erin O’Connor put their Stephen Jones thinking caps on and came up with an initiative: to showcase the work of 8 cutting-edge designers on a 8 professional models aged between 18-65 and size 8-16, as a celebration of individuality and diversity.

First, it needed a name. All Walks Beyond the Catwalk was conceived; and to be a success with the fashion press, not just the buyers, the event had to happen from the heart of London Fashion Week. Caryn, Erin and Debra also knew they needed to appeal to the top names in the industry to help pull it off.

With London Development Agency funding and British Fashion Council endorsement, Caryn, a fashion writer and broadcaster, Debra, a fashion consultant and former PR director at Lynne Franks, and Erin, the model and founder of the Model Sanctuary, visualised a project that utilised fashion photography at a high-profile salon style presentation to present each designer’s creations.

The All Walks mission is simple: to expand upon the imagery coming out of London Fashion Week and mirror a more realistic range of women, in age, size and race, than standards currently offer. The project has the potential to grow in terms of reach, education and, ultimately, influence.

Rankin, who is a big advocate of "real women" in the media (you may remember his Dove campaign), shot a series of new portraits featuring the clothing of top designers including...

Vivienne WestwoodStella McCartneyMatthew WilliamsonGiles DeaconOsman Yousefzada

These were modelled by a wide variety of models in an effort to show that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and doesn't end at the age of 25. The images are shot in the usual Rankin style, and show these women in all their glory, showcasing and celebrating the way they look. I've always been a big admirer of Rankin's work, and it's nice to see someone at the top of his game campaigning for things he believes in.

Last nights event at the National Portrait Gallery had several elements, but the centrepiece was a debate on various issues attributed to Fashion. On the panel were...

Erin O'Connor - Described by Karl Lagerfeld as "one of the best models in the world". • Kiki Kendrick - Ethical advertiser, who produced the Body Shop's size 16 Ruby Doll campaign. • Lynne Featherstone - Minister for Equalities • Lorraine Candy - Editor in Chief of ElleDr. Linda Papadopoulos - Psychologist

The debate covered various topics such as the supermodel figure, advertising standards, and retouching (you can see my thoughts on retouching here). A lot of people fear change and choose not to listen or disregard alternative views. What was really nice was to get to chat with Caryn afterwards and for to be genuinely interested in everyones viewpoint. I have arguments for and against many of the topics that were covered, which I shall save for another blog.

As photographers, these issues should be something we take very seriously. After all, it's our images on the front of these magazines, so we have a responsibility to the industry to take part in the discussion.

Some very interesting questions and arguments were raised by the debate. There were no real answers, but that was never the point. The whole idea of this campaign is to get people in the industry talking. Change doesn't happen overnight, but with people like Caryn Franklin and All Walks, the first steps are being taken.

The All Walks shoot by Rankin can be viewed at the National Portrait Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London, W1.

There is also a film of the event being produced by the London College of Fashion