A strange thing happened last week. Well, was it strange or just sad? I suppose I can look back on it now and put it into perspective somewhat. At the time, however, I couldn’t stop crying. Never before, in my ten years working with Fashion Foie Gras, had I felt more offended. Although, I still don’t know how that’s happened with an industry that might as well have a majority share in the practice of eating disorders. I guess I’ve just been lucky to avoid the outright prejudice for so long. I’m not what the fashion world wants and never have been. I’m the anti-fashion blogger. I represent the national average and that scares the shit out of almost every single person that runs a fashion label, but I’ll never truly understand why.
But, let’s back up here, before I dive head first into ranting territory, and give you a brief synopsis of the events that bring us here today, as they unfolded last Friday. In short, I was invited to come out of retirement for fashion week. Two years ago I made the decision, after eight years doing the fashion week circuit, that fashion week was a bit of a waste of time for me. Talking about designers that don’t carry above a size 10, or deliver a product that, at times, isn’t accessible to anyone other than the top 1% of the world, didn’t seem relevant anymore. But, this year a haircare brand invited me to attend a show for a designer that I had watched with great excitement over the years. She recently extended her sizes to carry up to a size 20 and she often does high street brand collaborations that allow her artistry to be shared with the masses. This is a forward thinking designer worthy of praise, attention and further examination. So, yes, I thought she would fit perfectly for a feature on FFG.
The taxis had been arranged, emails exchanged, and all was set on course. I was coming out for one show and one show only and then retreating back into my anti-LFW cave. The only thing left to do was to be dressed for the show. For the first time, in a long time, I was excited about being outfitted. For those of you that don’t know about the whole concept of “dressing for show,” as why would you, it works a little something like this. Certain people in attendance are dressed in the designer’s collection to be photographed supporting the brand they are sitting front row for. Easy as that. The clothing is usually loaned for the night and often times fitted for the wearer. I’ve spent years going through the rather intense process of requesting knits, so I could squeeze into them. PRs have been VERY understanding with the fact that I’m not sample size and have, if I’m being honest, gone to great lengths at times to dress me to attend shows. If they can’t dress me, they usually don’t offer. Makes everything a lot easier. And, as you well know, I’ve never ever hidden the fact that I’m not a sample size. I have an arse on me, people. I have boobs, I don’t have sticks for arms and I have thighs that give Serena Williams a run for her money.
So, on this particular occasion, I shouldn’t have been too surprised by how things were about to play out. Yet, I still found myself absolutely in shock. Three days before the show, I was asked to arrange a time I could go in for a “fitting.” I had written the agency, informing them of the size of my rather generous behind and heard nothing back. No times for fittings, no response at all. Then, the day before the show I get an email asking for my mobile number. The call comes in about three hours later from the PR agency handling the designer’s fittings for the show. The conversation went a little something like this, keeping in mind I wasn’t recording it so this is all from memory.
“Hi. Emily, I wanted to call you personally about the fitting for the show. As you know during fashion week, we only ever have teeny tiny little sizes in the showroom that you’d barely be able to get a leg into. And unfortunately we don’t even have any accessories in the showroom that we could loan you. So, I’m afraid we can’t accommodate you on this occasion. We’re so looking forward to seeing you at the show, though.”
It was at this point that I just sort of stared at the wall in disbelief. It took me a few seconds, and I hadn’t really thought it through, but I simply said, “I won’t be attending the show.” I don’t even think I really meant to say that. I just, honestly, said it because it was what I felt in that moment. I am usually a pretty measured person and I would have liked to have thought I could have composed something a little more impactful and appropriate, but that was all that came out.
After I hung up the phone, I drafted an email to the PR in charge of the hair brand and explained that while I loved them as a brand, I was not prepared to support the designer’s show. I outlined the course of events and received a lovely response. That was that. Only that wasn’t that. I felt like I needed to say something more. I was pissed. I was pissed because every single square inch of what had just happened was exactly what people have come to expect from the fashion industry these days. It’s skinny or it’s the door, no compromise.
Whenever I tell someone I work in the fashion industry, specifically someone that doesn’t work in the industry, there is first an air of excitement that is quickly followed by a “well, that must also be tough.” That’s mainly because the world isn’t blind. We all see billboards daily, glossy magazines, internet ads and more that showcase fashion one type of woman – a sample size with perfect hair, skin, teeth and nails. Whether those things are real or not, thanks Photoshop, it’s what we are exposed to daily. And the fact that I work in that industry, and am not a sample size, instantly seems to make people uncomfortable for me. Even my own mom and dad know that this isn’t the kindest place to work if you don’t “fit in.” I think my mom constantly worries I’m going to have some sort of nervous breakdown over it all.
Somehow, over the past decade, it’s all just managed to roll off my back. I’ve met so many amazing people and had such incredible support that I’ve very rarely been distressed by it all. Sure, it’s annoying when people continually send you things in size six, when you’re a sixteen. But, I always had the opinion that I was lucky to be receiving all of these beautiful things at all. I just let it all go. But, this I just couldn’t. I can’t explain exactly why a PR being brainless and unsympathetic made me, on this day, lose it, but lose it I did. I immediately took to Instagram stories. I wanted to communicate my frustration at the industry. But, I couldn’t even speak. For about fifteen seconds I just stared at the camera with tears strolling down my face. I wanted to yell, scream, curse and name names. I was, for the first time in a long time, angry. But, I didn’t want to do anything to discredit ten years working hard to sit where I sit, so I took a breather. I stood under a boiling hot shower for fifteen minutes trying to melt away the evil words that were setting up camp on my quivering bottom lip.
I finally levelled out and let it rip on Stories. I relayed exactly what you’ve read above and tried to voice my great dismay at an industry that just doesn’t seem to want to change. It doesn’t matter how many fashion companies are struggling, they still don’t think that servicing the average woman is a good idea. I could have gone on for hours, but no one wants to take part in that sort of rant, really. So I said what I needed to say and left it. I should have been able to see what would come next but I just didn’t. Over the next twelve hours I tried my best to respond to thousands of DMs that came streaming in. It was a mixed bag, but it was the contents that surprised me. I will be honest and say that I thought I might get a few messages from lovely women offering words on where exactly that PR could shove it, and I did get those responses. I didn’t, however, expect I would get so many multi-paragraph messages with stories ranging from tales of eating disorders caused by the fashion industry to absolute fear of shopping in retail stores, and everything you can imagine in between. I had opened a can of worms that was already bulging at the sides. Seems all you guys needed was a bit of a story to get the blood boiling.
At the end of my rant, I had said I felt empowered, motivated to be the change that was needed. I stayed up most of the night, trying to get my thoughts in place. I covered my office wall with various post-its where I had written thoughts about where we stand, what I’d like an ideal-all-inclusive-fashion-world to look like and what I thought I could do to get us there.
I have to tell you, I felt no closer to a decision on an action I could take. I almost felt more overwhelmed than anything else.
Then, the offers of help started to roll in. People wanted to be a part of this revolution, whatever said “revolution” looks like. I’ve managed to get back to nearly everyone and not only say thank you but to ask for patience while I organise my thoughts. This isn’t an easy win. It’s something I’ve been slowly working with behind the scenes, talking to people as often as possible about extending their sizing and general offering. It’s a cause I have championed rather quietly. I’ve tried to only talk about brands that provide for a greater audience, and I hope you’ve seen that reflected in what you read here on FFG. But, it’s clear that I may need to make my voice a little louder, stand a little taller and make sure I’m heard over the ridiculous prejudice that currently still exists in the fashion world. The one thing I kept hearing again and again and again was how women had money to spend but no where to spend it.
Dear retail, you are in trouble and you are being told how to help yourselves….maybe worth a listen? I’ll shout a little louder as I move through the industry, just in case you don’t hear me the first time around. But, you’ll hear me, and the thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions of women that are right alongside me, with open wallets and serious spending power. And yes, ladies, there is power in the pound, and where you choose to spend it is sending a message. So for now, all I can say is be mindful of where you’re spending it. Support the designers that want to support us all. Seek out the champions. Hell, seek out the bad guys and let them know they need a change. The worst thing we can do is be silent.
So, I’ll leave this here for now. Just know I’m working. It might not always be at the forefront of what you see here, but rest assured it’s a work in progress and not one of you isn’t a part of that. Now, off to move to mountains.