Larger models strut their stuff at mould-breaking London Fashion Week event

One is old, one is curvy and one is black. And in a fashion industry first, they will be among the stars at a unique London Fashion Week event that might, for once, actually resonate with more than just the size-zero brigade.

Valerie Pain, Lucy Jane Freeman and Sheila Atim are among eight models aged 18 to 65 and size 8 to 16 who have been photographed wearing creations from designers aspiring to be tomorrow's big names. The event, All Walks beyond the Catwalk, on Friday night at Somerset House in London, is the British Fashion Council's attempt to slap down criticism that the industry is failing to take seriously concerns that it promotes unhealthy body images.

Some of the industry's best-known figures, including the model Twiggy, the designer Giles Deacon, the former BFC chair and Marks & Spencer boss Sir Stuart Rose and Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman, are backing the initiative. Sarah Brown, the Prime Minister's wife, said the event was "showcasing Britain as it is".

Eight designers, including Californian-born Alexandra Groover, 28, and Hannah Marshall, 26, from Essex, were charged with "recasting the beauty ideal" to create catwalk clothes for real women. The photos were shot by Kayt Jones, the acclaimed Los Angeles-based British photographer, who waived her fee to be involved with the project, spearheaded by the eating disorders charity Beat.

Caryn Franklin, a fashion writer and broadcaster who helped to mastermind the event, said: "We wanted to expand the imagery that comes out of London Fashion Week of young, standard-size models, which is received by women as a prescriptive feminine ideal and excludes all those who are not reflected in that imagery." Susan Ringwood, Beat's chief executive, Erin O'Connor, the model and BFC vice-chair, and Debra Bourne, an industry insider, also helped to co-ordinate the event.

The event will represent the first time Beat has been involved with an official LFW event. The charity hopes it will send a positive message to the million-plus people estimated to suffer from eating disorders in Britain.

It comes only weeks after Ms Shulman waded into the furore surrounding skinny models, blaming fashion houses for making clothes too tight for even the skinniest models.

All eight designers involved on Friday made their creations specifically for their respective model. Ms Franklin said it was "a small step that shows how spectacular all women can look in designer clothes".