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Women's Equality Party Says London Fashion Week Should Be Compelled To Celebrate Body Diversity

The party's leader told BuzzFeed News body image issues are not taken seriously by other political parties because of “their attitudes to women generally".

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The Women’s Equality Party (WEP) has launched a new campaign called #NoSizeFitsAll designed to raise awareness of body image issues for women and girls in the UK.

Party leader Sophie Walker told BuzzFeed News that while there have been many body image campaigns before, this one is calling for the British Fashion Council to require that all designers showing at London Fashion Week 2017 to use two different sample sizes – one of which must be a UK size 12 and above.

Walker said body image issues are not taken seriously by other political parties because of “their attitudes to women generally... Our needs and our experiences are never a priority and that’s why WEP was set up.”

The WEP wants to have a discussion “about the significant and wide-reaching consequences the fashion industry’s idealisation of an extremely thin and uniform body shape,” Walker said.

She added she was keen collaborate on the issue with other politicians, including the mayor of London. “I’ve written to Sadiq Khan… He should look to withdrawing funding from London Fashion Week next year [if changes are not made].”

Walker has also made contact with Maria Miller, chair of the Commons women and equalities select committee. “It’s time we had a public hearing and call the fashion designers and speak [about] why they feel these tiny, tiny sizes are so important to the success of their industry,” she said.

Walker explained the WEP’s plans also call for a change in the education curriculum by making it mandatory for PHSCE lessons to discuss body image “with a very specific focus on media depictions of beauty. So we are teaching our young people to deal with the bombardment of advertising and images they see every day".

She said the issue was escalating as research shows a link between media imagery and eating disorders: “We are looking at a public health problem now… Eating disorders affect 1.6 million people in the UK. Ninety per cent are female.”

She said the issue of eating disorders is costing £1.3 billion a year. In order to get a better understanding of how women and models are affected by pressure from the modelling and fashion industry, the party has involved many models, eating disorder survivors, and mental health specialists in its campaign.

Model and #NoSizeFitsAll volunteer Rosalie Nelson told BuzzFeed News she was once instructed by a top London modelling agency to "lose more weight... we want you down to the bone." She said it prompted her to create a campaign that aims to protect models from getting “dangerously skinny”.

Nelson said it was very important for her to work alongside the WEP due to her experiences and to help other models. She said most models do not discuss what they do to sustain their jobs on a public level as it may affect their careers.

The majority of the girls on the catwalks are "dieting very heavily in order to fit into the clothes that the designers produce," she said. Nelson believes that if the WEP’s aim to discuss and address body image in school had already been implemented, her experiences would have been “much different”.

Another #NoSizeFitsAll campaigner, Jodi Greener, who was diagnosed with an eating disorder as a 14-year-old, told BuzzFeed News that young people are heavily influenced from a young age by the media: “I was aspiring to look like these models… When I first stopped eating I didn’t think it was a bad thing. I didn’t think I was making myself ill.” She said changes need to be enforced.

“The fashion industry perpetuates this idolisation of very thin bodies more so than any other medium… If I saw someone who was routinely close to what I looked at 14, like, I wouldn’t have felt the need to starve myself,” she said.

The WEP wants to work alongside UK-based fashion publications to ensure that editorial spreads features size-12 women and above, which Greener supports. “I want media imagery to depict diversity. That will benefit everyone,” she said.

Walker said women are “being fed the idea that being very skinny is acceptable… And occasional plus-size models are presented as something that’s a bit daring…. We are not presented on the major design catwalks with a true representation of the glorious diversity of women's bodies,” she said.

“We believe that this time next year to evolve. Creativity is about breaking the rules and the fashion industry has bound itself by these very, very narrow ideas for too long now.”

CORRECTION

The Women's Equality Party is campaigning for designers at London Fashion Week 2017 to be compelled to use two different sample sizes. An earlier version of this post stated it was campaigning for designers at all fashion shows to be compelled to do so.

Victoria Sanusi is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Victoria Sanusi at victoria.sanusi@buzzfeed.com.

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