All Walks Beyond the Catwalk Debate at National Portrait Gallery, 11/02/2011

Press Release. For Immediate Release.

Amidst almost 4000 people, who packed the National Portrait Gallery to enjoy All Walks Beyond the Catwalk’s spectacular event on Friday night, a crucial debate by five top industry figures was held – to discuss the power and impact of imagery in this digital age – ‘Is fashion the lens through which we evaluate our identity?’

All Walks co-founder and Debate Chairwoman, Caryn Franklin, said:

“The aim of All Walks was to create a platform for key players from different disciplines to talk to each other and be transparent about the conversation, so those present could witness the many complexities involved.”

With the increasing proliferation of fashion imagery distributed through new media, young women today are likely to see more unachievable images of beauty in one day than older generations saw in an entire adolescence.

Renowned Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, Minister for Equalities – Lynne Featherstone, Editor of Elle – Lorraine Candy, Founder of the model sanctuary and All Walks co-founder – Erin O’Connor along with ethical communications consultant at Host Universal – Kiki Kendrick gathered in front of a packed audience at the invitation of All Walks Beyond the Catwalk to discuss the power that fashion and advertising has to communicate positive messages to women about their physical appearance and further support well being.

“This is a debate that needs to take place without blame and without misinformation,” said All Walks co-founder Debra Bourne. It’s a highly sensitive conversation to have, so we thank everybody for coming to the table to discuss this. This could be the beginning of a process towards better understanding of the issues and how they affect us all. A small step in the right direction.”

The progression of digital technology to alter the physical appearance of those appearing in advertisements and fashion imagery, prompted the audience of approx 150 to agree that they would like more transparency with an almost unanimous show of hands. There currently appears to be no monitoring of digital re-touching in photographic imagery.

“The aim of All Walks Beyond the Catwalk, the initiative I co-founded with Caryn and Debra,” say’s Erin O’Connor, “is to work with fashion to create a message that makes all women feel great.”

She continues:

“I think it’s really important to say that I’m a fan of the industry. I’m also a promoter of the industry, and I’ve perpetuated the industry for a long, long time. It’s artistic, and for me in many ways it’s incredibly liberating. We can embrace art, but we need to be clear about what’s happening. It’s about finding a productive and practical solution and working together in a respectful, emotionally intelligent way.”

In this exploration of fashion, image and diversity, award winning campaign All Walks Beyond the Catwalk created a huge array of activities for guests – Exhibiting nine new Fashion Portraits by Rankin, of models aged 18-80 – plus DIY self-portraits, drawing masterclasses by London College of Fashion and a series of sound installations on related topics, from the Girl Guides to Vivienne Westwood. Plus other live entertainment.

Comments made by debate panelists on Friday 11th February:

On the existing environment:

Caryn Franklin

“We’re looking at a media with ability to reach deep into our psyche… Fashion imagery accompanies us everywhere. The fashion industry can boast some of the worlds most skilled, sought after, and influential image-makers in the world. Woman young and old in the land live with this constant mirror.”

Erin O’Connor, on personal appearance:

“I was acutely aware of my differences and I was quite uncomfortable with them. A lot of the self-criticism I imposed came from really recognizing that I was different and I wasn’t ordinarily comfortable with that. And then I got picked up by the fashion industry who kind of couldn’t wait to take my picture. So every flaw I felt I had instead all of a sudden being celebrated as individual. And all of my extremes, parts of myself that I thought were flaws were being highlighted in a very positive way. When I appeared in magazines I was representing a really empowered role if you will.”

Lorraine Candy, Editor of UK Elle, on fashion today:

“I think fashion has changed a lot over the years. I think it was much more accepting, it was much more diverse, much more about individuality and not just this very conformist approach. In the last 10 years perhaps we’ve seen it narrowed down to what is acceptable for women to aspire to it.”

Actress Kiki Kendrick, on media portrayal of women:

“The stronger, wiser, more independent women have become, the weaker, thinner; more clone-like they’re portrayed in the media.”

Dr. Linda Papadopoulos, n the impact that media imagery can have:

“It’s so saturated. Because it’s so monolithic you don’t have the opportunity to question it. We’re so habituated. The more often you see something the more you accept it as normal. You stop questioning it.”

Lynne Featherstone:

“I started the Body Confidence campaign with Jo Swinson of the Lib Dems and it looked at the power of all those areas – fashion, beauty, celebrity and media, bearing down on vulnerable girls and boys”

Kiki Kendrick, on the way the advertising industry works::

“Tell a woman she’s old, fat and ugly and she’ll spend a fortune making herself look young, thin and beautiful. Tell a woman she looks absolutely fine as she is and she won’t spend a penny. That’s what I saw in my 20 years of advertising”


Erin O’Connor, on the way forward::

“It’s about finding a productive and practical solution and working together in a respectable, emotionally intelligent way.”


Dr. Linda Papadopoulos:

“ I do think we should have some transparency, young girls don’t understand the retouching process. Let’s have some honesty about what happens to the picture.”


Lynne Featherstone::

“Body Confidence is now part of the government mental health and well-being strategy and part of the public health strategy. It’s about working with those in the field like the wonderful All Walks Beyond the Catwalks and others to take this forward. As a Govt Minister, I’m in a unique position to support this campaign. It’s a really important issue. It really matters”


Caryn Franklin::

“All media could consider a female friendly approach. This could mean different things to different people. Stopping the value judgements around appearance. Questioning the levels of manipulation…. engaging in our own individual power to create emotionally considerate messages for women, and of course, men.”


Notes to editors

All Walks Beyond the Catwalk launched in 2009 after a conversation with Susan Ringwood Chief Executive of the charity Beat. After four seasons, the three remaining co-founders Caryn Franklin, Debra Bourne and Erin O’Connor have become known for encouraging the promotion of a wider range of beauty than is normally seen in our media. The latest campaign launched nine Rankin portraits featuring professional models sizes 8-14 and ages 18-80 at the National Portrait Gallery on Friday night. All Walks deliberately takes an inclusive stance in always working with a range of models and that includes standard sized models too.:

All Walks is working within education to help students understand the need for emotionally considerate design and practice. Many colleges have invited All Walks to make presentations to their students and help influence the way forward.:

Debate held on Friday Feb 11th, Ondaatje Wing Theatre, National Portrait Gallery.:

For more info and more images. pls contact – Joe Whittaker at Modus PR :
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All Walks campaign portraits Rankin

Picture credit Annabel Staff.