(Photograph by Natasha Caruana)
Last night I was delighted to be invited to the ICA for an emphatic catwalk show with a difference. The event was organised by former designer Elaine Foster-Gandey; director of Designer Sales UK.
Elaine developed Real People do the Catwalk after hosting a fashion show which included both dancers and models on stage. “I asked my customers about it and they said they related to the dancers and not the models”.
Spurred by this Elaine set about putting together a pioneering show to further the arguement that replacing super-thin models with people who reflect society could lead to increased sales for the fashion industry.
The show opened in silence with the models resembling extras from Scream in their attire of long black robes and white masks. Each model first vocalised how they felt the fashion industry related to them, seek followed by revealing their beautifully styled outfits and their real identities.
(Photograph by Natasha Caruana)
“It is about not creating an elite world where no one else can join in, physician ” Explained Elaine. “So many people want a chance, viagra order but know that because they are five foot tall, or a size 14-16, they never will have.” The models featured within the show ranged from a 6’1” Drag Artiste to a 5’4” male; dress sizes 8 to 20 and ages between 25 to 60+.
What I enjoyed most about the show was the diversity and celebration of the models differences. It was fresh and modern with all the models having poise, confidence and importantly a great sense of humour. Their
good spirits and sense of fun gave the show an electric atmosphere.
The models’ charismatic personalities brought out something unique in the clothes that might not have been projected if worn by a ‘normal’ model. Whether this is because they were real people displaying how the clothes would fit on our own bodies or down to their insurmountable energy and passion for highlighting an issue intricately linked to the size zero debate.
Afterwards there was a riveting post-show debate featuring: Elaine Foster-Gandey; Real People do the Catwalk organiser, writer Dariush Alavi; Eleni Renton, founder of Leni’s Model Management; Hilary Alexander, esteemed fashion director at The Daily Telegraph and was chaired by writer and broadcaster Bidisha.
The debate began by Dariush Alavi somewhat controversially enquiring as to why Real People do the Catwalk
was produced to “enact a traditional fashion show.” Suggesting that by keeping the traditional format, could anything change by replacing the models with real people as it is not the models who are at fault but the stage on which they stand. Alavi suggested doing away with the catwalk altogether.
This prompted both Hilary Alexander and a member of the audience to defend the catwalk as “fashion’s world stage” and looked back to a John Galliano show where the entire collection was presented on an overhead track of basic clothes hangers. Dariush’s response suggested making models obsolete and displaying clothes on a fashion conveyer belt went down like a lead balloon. The audience and the rest of the panel remained sceptical of high fashion designers considering a presentation that in a format is more commonly associated with The Generation Game.
(Photograph by Natasha Caruana)
Questions were raised about the morality of the fashion industry and the spotlight on the size zero debate intensified. Hilary spoke about the Telegraph not facing the same constraints from advertisers as glossy fashion titles and said that the newspaper’s “aim to strike a balance between real people and models and actively try to include both types of woman in spreads… the oldest woman we’ve ever featured was 94.”
Panellist Eleni Renton mentioned that the Editor of UK Vogue Alexandra Shulman spoke out against size zero in June accusing designers of making magazines hire models with “jutting bones and no breasts or hips” by supplying them with “minuscule” garments for their photo shoots. She claimed that Vogue frequently “retouched” photographs to make models look larger. In response Hilary questioned whether things had begun to change at UK Vogue as they still fail to represent body diversity within their pages, suggesting it would become apparent what their real stance on size zero is over the coming months.
(photograph by Natasha Caruana)
Elaine added that whilst magazine images are not healthy for women, they have a considerable impact on impressionable teenagers who start to believe they need to emulate perfect bodies in order to be considered beautiful and successful.
“Look around, everything we see is airbrushed… these aren’t real images.”
To emphasise her point Elaine spoke of teenagers being more body conscious than any generation before citing her own children as an example: “I have a six-year-old daughter and 11 and 15-year-old stepdaughters who are constantly looking in the mirror. My stepdaughters are so skinny and so conscious about what they eat and what they see in the media. They are constantly aware of body image issues. It is a big issue for adolescent girls and boys.”
The panel and audience agreed that the media are responsible for putting different demographics into the mainstream and popularising diversity, and that they have a moral responsibility to society to not glamorise super skinny body shapes. Elaine believes that there has “been a spike in our body consciousness” in recent years and we have turned into a society “afraid of flesh, hair and wrinkles”.
Eleni, director of Leni’s Model Management only works with girls “who are sizes 8 to 12… They are the type of girls you see in the street and think, ‘I would like a body like hers.”
As the debate drew to a close the supermodel era was discussed, with Hilary citing that the greats in the industry: Linda, Kate and Naomi all had personality, and that was what made them famous, rather than their figures. On the flip side other great supermodels such as Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington and Sophie Dahl were celebrated for having curves.
Through the conversations it became apparent that the only modern day equivalent of a curvaceous celebrity pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable in mainstream is Beth Ditto, who won LOVE magazine a prestigious industry award for her iconic nude cover
The overall outcome was for women to take responsibility for themselves and their bodies and actively promote positive body attitudes to their daughters, friends and grandchildren. Everyone agreed that while it is easy to blame the media for the size zero trend, consumers need to use our buying power to actively challenge the fashion industry into reconsidering their design practices and elitism.
I left the ICA feeling very empowered, wanting to help revolutionise the fashion industry from the outside in.
The London based duo Tinsel Edwards and Twinkle Troughton will be staging an event all day tomorrow (Thursday 29th) around London as part of their ‘ It Was The Best Of Times, viagra 40mg It Was The Worst Of Times’ tour. Keep your eye out for a parking ticket on your car – you never know, some lucky chosen few will contain a free signed mini screen print! Be sure to check out their work:http://www.tinseledwards.org/ and http://www.twinkletroughton.co.uk/.
You’ve known each other since you were 9 years old – how long have you worked together creatively?
Tinsel: We’ve worked together on lots of different creative projects over the years, we ran a little fanzine when we were about 10! There’s also the band we used to be in until recently and the record label we have set up. When we were at college our art work was completely collaborative, we work separately now but often join forces for specific projects and to put on exhibitions.
Twinkle: Tinsel has kind of said it all there. I think we are very much on the same wavelength work-wise and have been since we were 9. So ideas bounce off each other quite easily and i think it works really well to help us move things forward.
Have you had formal training? How has this shaped how you work?
Tinsel: We both went to art college in London, at the time it was really good to get regular feedback from tutors and students and that will have shaped the way we work in lots of ways. However we graduated in 2001 so it seems a while a go now! Now the way we work is shaped more so by our everyday lives and observations of our surroundings.
Twinkle: It was quite funny because we went to separate art colleges, I went to Kingston which Tinsel was rejected from and Tinsel went to Goldsmiths which I was rejected from yet we ended up collaborating anyway and holding identical degree shows in each college. We had to go to each others crits and tutorials sometimes and so our work had quite a cheeky nature to it as it was a bit of an ‘up yours’ really, I think we still like to be playful in what we create together.
How would you each describe your work individually and collaboratively?
Tinsel: My work is a wide ranging commentary on all sorts of observations that I make in everyday life, I am interested in challenging and protesting about different things to promote and inspiring positive change. I love the idea of Do-It-Yourself, and continually promote the idea of personal responsibility in my work. I see my work as politically active, not because it references particular political events or current affairs, but because through my observations, questions, statements and slogans, I aim to instigate positive action and change on both an individual and wider level. The themes in my work vary widely, it can be an honest personal narrative, it can reference the everyday, or highlight social and cultural issues. I often use humour to deal with these themes.
Twinkle: I make work which is heavily influenced by Britain both now and as it was 2 to 300 hundred years ago. Up until recently my work was predominantly describing British quirks, questioning what we as Brits were modern day slaves to and using humour as a main tool to depict my ideas. While these elements are still running through my work it’s now got more political in many ways, I’m also questioning a lot of our cultural habits which actually stem back from a long time ago. I guess I’m looking at how on the surface everything changes yet underneath many things don’t change at all.
Collaboratively: Both of our work stems from observation, and although in very different ways, the work is a response to life in Britain today. The content and theme of each artist’s work is very different, but it stems from similar observations and concern. The approach is also similar, in that we both paint in bold colours and often use humour.
Where does your inspiration come from? Childhood/training/location?
Tinsel: Inspiration comes from all sorts of things, life in London is a massive influence, music and art, people’s attitudes and social observation. Style and technique wise I love text and all things typographic, I love Pop art, big expressionist style painterly work, vintage graphic design.
Twinkle: Inspiration comes from the media, newspapers mainly. I look at both snippets in the papers and the stories that dominate. Currently I am finding so much inspiration from more historical reading, both fiction and non-fiction. I’ve been reading Dickens and factual books about the Victorians and am basing a lot of research on historical reading combined with the scouring of newspapers each day. I also am inspired just by basic observation of day to day life. As an avid people watcher there is plenty of inspiration on the streets of London alone! Visually, I don’t have a list of artists who inspire me, that can pop up at any moment when visiting exhibitions. Just a small example: I got masses of inspiration recently from the historical collections at National Portrait Gallery but was also very inspired by the HUGE Maggie Thatcher painting by Marcus Harvey (although I had already done my Maggie painting I do need to point out haha!) so I think I take artistic inspiration from all over the place.
Who are the artists that you most admire?
Tinsel:There are soooo many artists I like for lots of different reasons! But if I had to name a couple I would say that I love Bob and Roberta Smith, because he is honest, challenging, funny, political and very frank and open. And I really like Tracey Emin, also because I really admire her honesty and fearlessness. I’ve always found her work very compelling.
Twinkle: I guess my answer above answers some of this. Artists I really like though… I also love Tracey Emin‘s work for very similar reasons to Tinsel. I love Jeff Koons‘ work, especially his paintings which I personally just thought were out of this world, it’s always good to see work which leaves you feeling like you’ve got so much to aspire to! It makes you want to change and move things on and think bigger.
How important is it to have a presence on the internet these days? Do you use Twitter and other social networking sites?
Tinsel: I’m a bit reluctant to get sucked in to Twitter, and it took me a while to join Facebook! But it is really important to have online presence, its a brilliant way to showcase your work and promote exhibitions, and to find out about other artists too.
Twinkle: Urgh I am not too good at things like Twitter…I’m not sure people would want to follow my daily thoughts and actions like that. I don’t mind using those things as a platform to show artwork and to let people know about events, and I also don’t mind them for keeping in touch with friends old and new…but that’s about it…
What would your dream commission be?
Tinsel: Erm!!! It would be really funny to be asked to do something for the Queen, or perhaps a bonkers old millionaire rock star, or a politician…. I would love to work on album covers for bands. On a more serious note it would be absolutely amazing to be commissioned to do something like the fourth plinth, a big public commission which could be used as a platform to voice something really important and relevant to people’s lives.
Twinkle: Dream commission?? Haha, yeah something for the Queen would be excellent. At the moment I think I would love to be commissioned to make a very large scale painting for a pubic space which was going to be used as a future insight to modern British life and our social issues. Something which freezes time to show future generations what life in Britain was like in the 2000s-2010s, showing both good and bad elements.
How did you come up with the idea for your event this Thursday?
Tinsel: The screenprint in the parking ticket bags is an image of a Woolworths empty shop-front, across the posters in the windows is written ‘It was the Best of Times It was the Worst of Times’. The work is talking about how although recession can be very difficult it can also be a time for positive change and growth. We thought that producing a mini print as a very large edition would help to promote that message. Disguising each one as a parking ticket tied in quite well, when people find them although they might be initially a bit disappointed, what’s inside is actually a nice thing – some free art!
Our previous gallerist Stella Dore actually helped us to come up with a very initial version of the idea about two years ago. Because of the nature of our work, it is often confined to the gallery space, we wanted to do something which would take our work out of the gallery and to a wider audience.
Twinkle: The Traffic Warden part of the idea did come from Steph at Stella Dore. We just didn’t know what to do with it back then. Then along the way little flashes of inspiration came to us, such as from reading Dickens. ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ is an opening line to one of his novels’ and both me and Tinsel felt that opening line was incredibly descriptive of modern life and was also a direct response to our own feelings about the recession.
Photographs of Twinkle and Tinsel by Kris Myhre
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