The Be Real Campaign, founded by YMCA and Dove, is urging designers, fashion houses, clothing brands and model agencies to show a greater commitment to tackling body image anxiety, at the start of London Fashion Week today.
Directing industry leaders to its Be Real Body Image Pledge, the body confidence campaign says now is the time for the fashion industry to prove it is serious about portraying responsible attitudes to body image, reflecting diversity, reality and promoting good health and wellbeing.
The campaign’s Pledge has received just three fashion industry sign ups since its launch in November and, despite seeing recent progress in the portrayal of diversity in fashion through the incorporation of plus size models in some mainstream fashion shows and advertising, the campaign says these remain isolated incidents that have not yet become the norm.
Denise Hatton, Chief Executive of the National Council of YMCAs in England and Wales, a founding partner of the Be Real Campaign, said:
“Just last year we saw what appeared to be a re-emergence of ultra-thin models at London Fashion Week events.
“These events are the highlight in every fashion fanatic’s calendar and are beamed to millions of people, most of whom will never be able to live up to these unrealistic beauty ‘ideals’. Constantly being bombarded with only one body type, particularly an extremely thin body type, risks creating an insidious, unhealthy and damaging pressure for people to attempt to become something they’re not.
“We are seeing evidence of this leading to greater body image anxiety with 60% of adults saying they are ashamed of the way they look  and almost a third of young people in school not taking part in activities like PE because of their appearance .
“Industries have a responsibility to promote a healthy body image and reflect the true diversity of the population with all the different shapes, sizes, skin tones, ages, genders and ethnicities so we can become a truly body confident nation.”
The Be Real Campaign was formed in response to the Reflections on Body Image report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Body Image. Its Pledge provides a set of clear and powerful principles to bring about responsible change and aims to engage industries in leading on change themselves; encouraging them to take ownership of the development of more responsible advertising and communication, which reflects the UK as it is today.
Joey Bevan, Fashion Stylist and Be Real Ambassador, said:
“I work in an industry where I see first-hand the effect unhealthy beauty standards have on people. Even as a stylist, I have been on the receiving end of body shaming, being told that I was too big to be considered for a presenter job.
“As someone who has suffered from an eating disorder, I know I have a responsibility to portray positive body image in my work, and I have declined working with some models who were clearly unhealthy.
“Although we now see greater diversity, all of us working in the fashion industry must show real commitment and sign up to the Body Image Pledge to prove that we really want to drive forward positive change.”
Edward Watson, a spokesperson for N Brown, said:
“Our nation is in the middle of a crisis of confidence. As a retailer and an advertiser we owe our customers the honesty of showing them realistic, but aspirational images of themselves.
“While there is nothing wrong with being naturally thin, seeing this as the constant body ideal is fuelling body image anxiety. It’s about time we saw a wider variety of different shapes and sizes on the runway. It makes both commercial and moral sense.”
Alongside the Body Image Pledge, the Be Real Campaign has also developed a Toolkit and Handbook to enable organisations to interpret and adopt the Body Image Pledge’s principles.
Organisations are encouraged to sign up to the pledge and actively promote the pledge to drive change in their respective industries.
* Centre of Appearance Research, 2012
* Be Real Campaign, Somebody Like Me, 2016