The Rosemount Australian Fashion Week (RAFW) is over for another year, but it didn’t pass without controversy. Plus size models from BGM Models – who must have a fantastic PR department – protested outside the main venue over the complete lack of plus size models in this year’s events.
After all the attention plus size fashion has received in the past twelve months, Australia seems to be – quite embarrassingly – falling behind the rest of the Western world. As BGM agent Darrianne Donnelly states, “While the rest of the world is embracing women with curves, Australian fashion is going backwards. The public wants to see themselves, in all shapes and sizes not just size 6.”
(As an aside to BGM Models: I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but can you please lay off the whole ‘REAL WOMEN’ angle? You don’t advance one group of people by tearing down another. To imply that straight size models are not real is just another way of dictating what women should and should not look like. That’s exactly what we’re trying to get away from.)
Organisers did not make official comment, instead deferring questioning to individual designers as they are responsible for the model casting for their own shows.
First of all – because I have seen this incorrectly reported on other blogs – plus size models were not featured at last year’s RAFW. Last year’s City Chic fashion show was held during the 2009 Sydney Fashion Festival. They are two completely different events (though it is sponsored by the same company) and RAFW is The Big Deal – it is the exclusive, industry-only event.
Though that’s the point, isn’t it? Plus size consumers are given a free, public show in the less prestigious runway show yet continue to be snubbed by Australia’s top designers in our premier fashion event. It smells just a little bit like tokenism.
It is interesting to see how little impact the Voluntary Industry Code of Conduct on Body Image may have. In October 2009, the National Advisory Group on Body Image – which was established by the Australian government in March 2009 – submitted the Proposed National Strategy on Body Image to the government. Among the recommendations is the Code of Conduct on Body Image, which recommends using “a diverse range of people that are appropriate to their target audience. When considering diversity, particular focus should be given to including a range of body shapes, sizes and ethnicities”. The report is currently under consideration by the government, and they are due release their response this year. You can read the complete report here or, if you’re lazy, a summary of the recommendations here.
The key word to take note of is ‘voluntary’. It is up to each magazine and fashion label to sign up to the Code of Conduct and abide by its principles. However, with Australian designers so reluctant to use plus size models, we must question what a voluntary code could achieve. With no incentives or punishments, and with seemingly no champions in our fashion industry, I do wonder how we can move forward.