London Fashion Week is again upon us. During the run-up to the event, however, the debate has been dominated less by interest in the new trends and must-haves than by justifiable concern about the eating habits of size-zero models.
To many people, this concern may seem incidental to their lives. They draw more fun than serious reflection from the cultish jamboree surrounding couture and are not going to feel under enormous pressure to cash in their ISAs to buy a pair of Balenciaga jodhpurs (price: don't ask. Waiting list: forever) because they are this year's thing.
There is no point pretending we do not enjoy the idea that others do just that, however. If we did not, neither the Channel 4 television serial Ugly Betty nor the film The Devil Wears Prada, would have drawn such huge audiences. But it is right that the dark side of the fashion cult is the subject of ever sharper inquiry and criticism, homing in on the phenomena of skeletal models starving themselves to attain the required ghost-like pallor and Third World workers pushed to the edge of starvation as a result of the pittances they earn from sewing garments that sell for thousands of pounds.
Some will be disappointed, therefore, that the British Fashion Council, which released its report on models yesterday, did not go as far as some of its European counterparts in seeking a complete ban on size-zero models but restricted itself merely to a call for a ban on those under the age of 16.
At the same time, London Fashion Week is not all about misery and exploitation but art, fantasy and imagination. In the mid-1990s, it became the showcase for the talents of a new generation which helped to put London on the design map. In doing so, it recast the image of the capital, and thus of Britain, as dynamic and unconventional. Think McQueen, Galliano, McCartney. Watch out now for Giles Deacon and Christopher Kane. London Fashion Week still draws attention to London and we should celebrate that.
The growing criticism of designers and calls for them to take more responsibility for the effect they have on teenage girls, proves only that the fashion world still connects with wider society. In that sense, designers should take as a compliment our demand that they start to exercise greater caution over where they lead the imaginations of the young.Reuse content