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Caryn Franklin

The writer and broadcaster speaks to Kanika Findley-Chin about fashion diversity initiative All Walks Beyond the Catwalk.

Can you tell us what All Walks Beyond the Catwalk is about?
All Walks is about collaborating with the fashion industry to showcase great design and on a wider range of models. We want to make positive contributions and challenge our industry’s predisposition to use one type of beauty. All Walks is not in conflict with the way standard fashion has to run itself, we’re trying to create a formula in which we can work with designers to showcase their work in a more bespoke way.

There are lots of people endorsing the drive. What has feedback been like from the fashion world?
Are people snobby about it and resistant to change, or have they embraced it? We’ve had an enormous amount of support from people in the fashion industry and those who want to put forward something that is aspirational and exciting. Marks & Spencer, our main sponsor, has been a huge support as has the British Fashion Council,
and we’ve received a Cosmopolitan magazine award for our work. We’ve met with the Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone and hope to collaborate on the party’s Body Confidence campaign tackling digital manipulation. The fashion industry seems to be addressing diversity more with, for instance, French Elle’s recent plus-sized cover or Italian Vogue’s Black Issue in 2008.

Do you think moves like these have prompted real changes?
The fashion industry tends to approach things from a trend perspective, so I really hope we’re not in a trend curve where everyone is saying “Great let’s talk about it”, but then we return to this default setting. I also think we are in a space where middle-aged women like myself are very fashion literate and we have the funds to back it up. We are asking to see
more expansive imagery. Seeing a spectacularly dressed 60-year-old shouldn’t be radical.

Do you feel the recession has affected the push for diversity?
How do you see this push developing in the next few years? Yes it has. The industry has recognised it has to listen to customers who come in all forms, and constantly marketing at young women is only looking at one sector of the audience. We need a wider range because young women don’t stay that way forever. It’s not just a case of using older models to speak to older women. A beautiful older woman is good for younger women to see because they all need to know where they are going.

All Walks Beyond the Catwalk hosted a forum at Graduate Fashion Week on June 8. What other events do you have planned for the initiative?
We will organise a photographic event and we are hoping to work with a big name in the photographic industry. In February, we are also planning to do a big designer collaboration.

Caryn Franklin is a fashion writer and broadcaster

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