By Jenni Sellan

FASHION FORWARD, by definition, ‘relating to, anticipating or reflecting the most up to date fashion trends.

The term itself had me thinking about fashion being ‘forward’ in a broader sense.

Beyond the realm of design is it forward thinking?
Is it continually challenging itself?
Is it relating and responding to the call to change?
Is it disrupting itself as a global industry?

Current narrative would have us believe that fashion has a significant road ahead of itself before it can claim to be inclusive, responsive, and responsible. There is certainly some merit to be found in this and when comments such as Karl Lagerfeld’s’ most recent gain traction, it becomes easy for us to assume (myself included) that if a prominent leading figure in the industry lives and breathes such attitudes that industry leaders and decision makers are sharing the same sentiment

A long road ahead however, does not automatically rest with the conclusion that the industry is sleeping on these issues.

Fashion is no stranger to controversy or criticism. From promoting unrealistic ideals of beauty to lack of diversity on the runway, the sustainability debate and of course the protection of models against abuse and neglect. The issues it faces are undeniably critical and the opportunities for change immense, but the good news is that the industry is responding. Right across the platform, individuals and groups are giving their voice and rising to the challenge and this includes fashion’s biggest conglomerates.

I spoke with Mariela. V. Demetriou, consultant to the fashion and luxury sector regarding her thoughts on how the industry is responding, with particular reference to the protection and well being of models and my attention was swiftly and necessarily drawn again to the significance of the movements that have been born out of the exposing that fashion has faced, serving as a good reminder for us all that globally fashion is awake to the magnitude of the issues, and not only awake but actively working toward a solution.

 ‘We are certainly evolving as an industry in this issue with two of the largest rival luxury conglomerates Kering and LVMH joining forces (never happens!) to create a world-wide charter for models (September 2017). The wake up call is already happening.

Models, casting directors, stylists and designers were consulted for brainstorming sessions when drawing up the charter and this isn’t the first time that major efforts have been made to regulate the modelling industry.

In 2012, the Model Alliance was established in New York to protect models working in the American fashion industry and as far as Europe goes, in 2015 France passed legislation outlawing underweight models from working in the country’s fashion industry. The good news is that other brands outside of LVMH and Kering are invited to sign the charter as well”.
Mariela.V. Demetriou

So lets take 5 to revisit some of the industry wins and initiatives, because more often than not, the work accomplished behind the scenes isn’t always found in the spotlight despite a deserving place

– In addition to the charter Kering and LVMH launched, We care for models, expanding ‘’the initiative by creating a website which provides models with information and advice from professionals concerning well-being, as well as first-person comments. The objective is for the men and women who work with us to adopt this process and play an active role to drive changes to their profession”

– Following the charter, Conde Nast International implemented its own internal code of conduct for the protection of models from harassment in the work place and no longer commission work from accused photographers Bruce Weber & Mario Testino

– Also following the charter IMG updated it’s own internal policies to include greater measures of protection for models including among other things the monitoring of casting hours and working conditions

– The Model Alliance continue to be a powerful force and voice campaigning for transformative change with James Scully joining the board of advisors.

– Models have been given a forum to share their stories and use their voice to facilitate change thanks to campaigns such as the #timesup and #metoo movements and of course Cameron Russel’s #myjobshouldnotincludeabuse

In the words of Stella McCartney, “The reality is that everybody that is a part of this community has to be accountable, we have to work together as a team and that includes the houses, the designers, the business people, the agencies, the models themselves and the families that support them’.

The way for fashion to truly establish itself as fashion forward? Unity.
And as a wise new friend recently said to me, “whose listening to Karl anyway…”