Education is at the heart of All Walks’ campaign, inspiring and supporting fashion students to a more enlightened way of thinking. Last year our national student initiative #DiversityNOW worked with over thirty fashion universities and colleges. We talk to CSM undergraduate Moss Omey about her final collection, that focuses on changing the misconceptions about petite clothing.

Original artwork by Moss Omey

When did you start thinking about diversity in fashion?

It was really highlighted while interning at The Row over the summer just gone. I would watch the Olsen Twins design these beautiful garments for women of statuesque proportions. I remember picking up a toile thinking it was a dress only to find out it was a top! The twins would choose styles from the collection, which had to then be altered down to their size. It was this that I found ironic, their ability to create elegant clothes but unable to instantly wear. That’s when I really began to investigate what was available for shorter women and discovered the utter lack of choice! The few ‘petite’ ranges on offer are usually compiled of styles that represent a girly pre-teen who loves a pink bow, rather than an empowered woman seeking an elegant and well fitted garment.

What is your project about?

It’s about a girl who’s nicknamed ‘Poco’ because of her short height. She’s the youngest of three sisters, and like many of the youngest siblings, her parents say there’s no need to buy new and expensive clothes for her when she can be given her two sisters hand me downs. Her eldest sister’s a professional working in the city, although is a bit hopeless at holding down a job. The middle sister has a total middle child syndrome, a biker rebel who’s not afraid to get dirty. Poco must make do with their combination of hand me downs that swamp her in size! She invents unusual techniques to make them fit her; the alterations transform into design features to make them her own.

What has inspired your graduate collection?

 I’m 5ft 2in tall and have always battled with clothes not fitting and felt misrepresented by the ‘petite’ lines. I have drawn from personal experience and really express a build up of frustration through the character ‘Poco’. Instead of hiding the alterations, she transforms them into a design feature; embracing what may be seen as a fault to create a sense of empowerment.

 

Developmental drawings by Moss Omey

What are the most common misconceptions about petite clothing?

I feel many petite lines are guided by profit to target a younger audience who are simply not old enough to fit into the main line rather than mature women of shorter proportions.  Most styles chosen for petite ranges are either incredibly basic or pinky pastel tones, adorned with bows, lace or text. This really feeds the connotations associated with ‘petite’, a term I really hate and find condescending, with the dictionary suggesting synonyms of ‘dainty’, ‘delicate’ and ‘elfin’… No empowered woman who wants to be taken seriously would describe themselves as elfin!

“I feel a level of responsibility to represent shorter women within the fashion industry and a need to challenge the ‘cutesy’ connotations associated with the term ‘petite’”

Moss Omey

How has your experience in the fashion industry shaped your views on body diversity?

As a culture, we’re constantly fed images of what’s considered an ideal or beautiful body, especially within the fashion industry. Being surrounded by it, I realised just how few people actually fit into the category of an ‘ideal’ body. So many designers create garments for extremely tall and slender women, yet so few actually exist in comparison to the wider spectrum of body shapes! This reinforces and prolongs the illusive image, created by our culture, of what’s considered a beautiful or ideal body. I feel a level of responsibility to represent shorter women within the fashion industry and a need to challenge the ‘cutesy’ connotations associated with the term ‘petite’.

Alteration development by Moss Omey

Has anything about studying at Central Saint Martins shaped your outlook?

Yes, to be 100% yourself.  My final collection has required a lot of self-analysis, I’ve learnt so much about how I think and why, which has been crucial to the development of my aesthetic.

What are your plans after graduation?

I am determined to improve, expand and challenge the ‘petite’ fashion market. Whether I channel this through my own label, work with existing petite lines on their improvement or help designers create a ‘petite’ line.

Follow Moss Omey’s collection online and get involved at the casting call for the Central Saint Martins fashion show.

Words: Elli Weir