Whilst not an All Walks campaign, this recent project I created with my partner in crime Jane Galpin, featured in today’s Standard News for highstreet retailer Debenhams, was as fun to do as any previous All Walks shoot. Innovative in it’s own way too.

The Diversity Shoot as it was affectionately named, allowed us to get to grips with the intricacies of working with non-standard models in a mainstream setting (all our All Walks work has involved working with individual designers). Our commercial casting was a huge affair with wheelchairs users, Paralympians, and of course the traditional standard and non-standard bodies all crowding into the Personal shopper area in Debenhams Oxford Street.

Having picked our 7 women, the sample garments had to be especially made and in a typical high-fashion drama, worthy of any London Fashion Week show, I was pacing up and down by the end of the day – a model there since day break yet the dress  still hadn’t arrived by nightfall. Suppliers issues nearly derailed our seamless declaration for inclusivity.

Thing is….it takes commitment and cost to liaise with oversees suppliers to action garments in different sizes, three months before the agreed delivery deadlines. This is just one of the issues that faces any brand engaging with diversity. It doesn’t excuse lack of interest from designers and retailers, but goes some way into explaining why it takes a dedicated creative team, patient models and an enhanced budget to factor in (and sweat out) the obstacles.

An extravagant team of models instead of the usual 2 for a look book, adds to hair and makeup load. To keep the budget lean my team and I had to shoot everything in one day – we absolutely couldn’t repeat the costs for a second studio and team day. There was huge pressure on my favourite portrait photographer – Chris Floyd, to make it work within the time-frame. 20 outfits in one day is no mean feat.

Especially when there is a commitment to minimal post-production work on the final images. This means any imperfections can’t just be magic-ed away. We wanted to be able to stand by our word of truthful representation. And I’m glad to say, there was no substituting of bodies in group shots to get the best positions (comping); There was no changing or shaping of bodies themselves (sculpting); There was no removing of lines, wrinkles or body texture (airbrushing). We know we have done the designers we worked with like John Rocha, Marios Schwab, Matthew Williamson, and Jenny Packham proud.

As digital expert Sarah Brimley who worked on the shoot says

I’d say I’ve definitely done less work on them then I would on usual fashion images, as I was conscious of keeping them true to life. The work I’ve done on these images have been mainly photographic based, e.g. things that could be altered in a traditional darkroom. These things include burning and dodging (lightening and darkening tones) and correcting colour temperatures. Other minor things I have done were things that would be distracting in the photograph, such as stray hairs across the face. I have done absolutely no cosmetic retouching, which would alter the person’s appearance. This is often required in fashion shoots; things as extreme as changing the shape of the model’s face. I would confidently say that these images are true to life.

All in all I’m loving the results. We are joining up the dots here at All Walks by creating platforms to talk about and celebrate the importance of Diversity. The Body Confidence Awards and all the work we have activated in colleges up and down the country gives enlightened retailers like Debenhams motivation to engage and innovate within their field. And we celebrate that.

 

Next month All Walks will meet with MP Caroline Nokes chair of the APPG to discuss the 2nd Annual Body Confidence Awards, and as I work my way through our competition entries for Diversity NOW! and marvel at the quality of the work, I feel a sense of excitement…Change is good!

Debenhams have previously displayed size 16 mannequins, featured a variety of body shapes in their Principles campaign including Shannon Murray one of UK’s best known wheelchair bound models; featured 3 glamourous older models in an exclusive campaign: Style LIST and last year won Enlightened Retailer Award at the first Body Confidence Awards launched from Parliament last April.

Models – Kelly Knox and Philomena Kwao

Model – Paralympian Stef Reid

Model – Kelly Knox

Models – Tess Montgomery and Jada Sezer

Photography Chris Floyd

Feedback from the Retailer added March 2014

 

Caryn Franklin
Co-Founder

Former fashion editor and co-editor of i-D Magazine for 6 years in the early eighties, Caryn Franklin has been a fashion commentator for 31 years. She presented the BBC’s Clothes Show for 12 years and BBC’s Style Challenge for 3 years as well as producing and presenting numerous documentaries for ITV on designers including Vivienne Westwood, Philip Treacy and Matthew Williamson.

Working in education throughout her career as external assessor and lecturer in colleges like Central St Martins, London College of fashion and Royal College of Art, she is also an ardent fashion activist and has co-chaired the award winning Fashion Targets Breast Cancer for 17 years, proposed the London College of Fashion Centre of Sustainability and is its ambassador.

Follow Caryn on Twitter: @Caryn_franklin