Photograph Rebecca Eland – Northumbria University

While Vogue’s Alexandra Shulman invited her panel to discuss body image insecurities at the recent Southbank Vogue Festival and ex-editor of Australian Vogue, Kirsty Clements, laments a fashion dynamic that prioritises an unhealthy body ideal, hundreds of UK creatives have just unleashed a proposal for progress.

All Walks Beyond the Catwalk Competition: Diversity NOW! in association with i-D Magazine and sponsored by Succeed Foundation has invited students to broaden the physical ideals our industry promotes by sending their illustrations and photographic celebrations of diverse bodies, along with clothing designs for all shapes and ages including disability.

Paralympian glory along with All Walks campaigns were some of the things that inspired them.

Uploading their entries through Arts Thread: the leading creative graduate platform for online portfolios and recruitment, with designers having the chance to sell their garments through Own Label, the innovate emerging designer e-tail platform, colleges including, Northumbria, Nottingham Trent, Leeds, Ravensbourne, London College of Fashion, Central St Martin’s, Edinburgh College of Art, The Arts University at Bournemouth, Southampton Solent, University of Westminster, Liverpool John Moores University, Glasgow School of Art, University of Wales Newport, University of Derby and Leeds College of Art, took up the All Walks call for images and designs inspired by the theme ‘Diversity and Individuality.’

So what’s all this Diversity empathy? Why its nothing more than a healthy dose of accountability…thinking about the consequence of design and who will engage with it. Students felt the project had really touched a nerve…

Tutors said…

“A lot of our students commented that doing this All Walks cluster of projects was like having therapy! We will definitely be embedding Diversity NOW! every year as it really opened our eyes to what our students were thinking and feeling.”

Sarah Lewington, Principal Lecturer, BA (Hons) Fashion Communication and Promotion, Nottingham Trent University

Diversity NOW! brings the customer into the designers’ focus, either through the personification of design or catering to individual desire at the same time as addressing real, practical needs. My students enthusiasm for this project is reflected in their brilliant work and I’m proud that we at London College of Fashion have this platform to express our passion for identity.
Rob Phillips, Creative Director, London College of Fashion

From photography of bodies and faces so diverse in origin they made the seminal Caroline Baker, Bennetton Campaign, look really rather tame (look it up) to fashion illustrations featuring bodies of all sizes, ages and abilities, our UK students showed their penchant for individual style.

Interestingly we also asked everyone a simple question. “Would seeing more diverse beauty and body ideals in the media impact positively on your self esteem?” A snapshot of YES answers revealed how strongly students of today feel.

Students said…

People who are strong enough to embrace their differences represent something more beautiful to me, than someone who has molded themselves into an ideal.”

“Adele vs. Karl Lagerfeld, Paralympics. Women should no longer be compared to airbrushed advertising campaign shots.”

 “As the next generation of the creative industry we have a responsibility to our society. We should be presenting people with the real truths, helping people to aspire to be better people, not aspiring to be skinnier. We should be encouraging people to be happy in their own skin, or aspiring to be the best versions of themselves, not someone else’s idea of beautiful. The media should be filling people with optimism and inspiration, not making people feel bad about themselves, needing to consume the next product in order to feel beautiful. After all, this is the way to make society healthier. Advertising could be the solution, instead of the problem”

 ”My friends tell me they have stopped buying fashion magazines because of the use of models who are seen to be ‘idealized’ beauty. More realistic images would help us all with the confidence.”

 “I always felt ashamed of something about myself, not just because of what I saw in the media but because this twisted view of beauty meant that everyone expected you to look like a model from a magazine.”

 “We can choose to change our clothes through fashion but we should not have to feel pressure to change our genetics because of fashion. Fashion is about celebrating the body not conformity and negativity.”

 “Fashion isn’t just about glamour and glitz but also as a designer, it’s your job to make people feel confident about themselves in the clothes you design for them and to be able to carry themselves without being judged.”

 ”My own body does not conform to the current “ideal” body type that is represented in the media at the moment.”

 “We have become so used to seeing images of say, skinny women for example, and being sold ideas of what it means to be beautiful, that we believe them to be the truth.”

“The more people you see that are like you, the more you realise you are normal. Seeing someone, especially in the media who is successful yet similar to you is a kind of confirmation that being larger or taller or even older doesn’t have to hold you back in life.”

We say…

We are often asked why the voluntary work of All Walks is significant and we can only answer from the heart. We never under estimate the power the fashion industry has to influence the self esteem of its audience. That’s why we ask the next generation to consider their impact, their messaging and the responsibility they have to create positive body ideals…but let’s get on with the exciting bit!

Now is the job of our judges to decide upon the winners of each section. We are well chuffed to have the help of such industry luminaries as Designer William Tempest,  Couturier Deborah Milner,  DisneyRollerGirl Blogger Navaz Batliwalla, Illustrator Nuno Da Costa, Writer, Designer and Brand Consultant Jason Jules, Body Image commentator Stephanie Heart, Film Maker Kathryn Ferguson and Photographer Kayt Jones along with key members of the i-D editorial team, to help with this giant task. Read more about each creative here.

Over  the coming weeks we will be featuring some of our  finalist’s work while Own Label will be featuring design finalists on their site and in June at Graduate Fashion Week we will be naming our winners. Oh the excitement – more gripping that an episode of C.S.I any day!

See a selection of work featured by i-D Online here.

See finalists in all their glory below.





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Post written by Caryn Franklin

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 and proposed the London College of Fashion Centre of Sustainability and is its ambassador.

Follow Caryn on Twitter: @Caryn_franklin