Clothes Show 2015: Beautiful Is

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I had the priviledge of attending this years Clothes Show at Birmingham NEC alongside The Friendly Development Charity, representing their Beautiful is campaign.

The campaign was launched in 2013 they carry out roadshows and work in schools as well as campaigning online.  Their aims are to:

  • challenge poeple to value others for more than their appearance
  • empower people to feel confident with their own bodies
  • send a strong message to media, fashion and advertisers that we want images that portray real life
  • challenge perception of what beautiful is

The roadshows have been piloted with year 9 students and phase 2 will hopefully extend the work into colleges and universities.  Their No Makeup Monday ran monthly on social media is very successful with many people posting their no makeup selfie regularly each month to remind people that true beauty is not in what we look like!

CEO and Founder Emma Oliver was representing the charity and speaking in some of the fashion seminars at the event.  The seminars were attended by students and tutors who were attending the clothes show and Emma was speaking specifically on confidence.

The Clothes Show is a huge event and it was a fantastic opportunity for the campaign to be there.  I know Caryn Franklin is involved in challenging the perception of beauty in work she does.  It’s exactly the type of event the campaign needs to be at and involved in – not just because of the huge number of girls and women there but because so much of it is about looks – girls go to be spotted by model scouts and they watch lots of catwalk shows with stick thin models!

It was quite strange being there with the campaign, and being so conscious of what we stood for, and coming out of the doors of the room we were in into a barrage of teenage girls pouting taking selfies with the male models or all reapplying their makeup.  I love all of that stuff, dressing up, shopping till I drop, getting bargains – reapplying my face and getting some more bargains all in the beautiful glossy bags!  I guess I noticed the distinct difference now, where I know those things don’t define me as a person from before where I would have been in my heels with lots of makeup on and one of the girls racing to find my newest purchase (I was never the ballsy one approaching the hot guys for a picture lol seriously if there were shoes or handbags to buy who wanted a pic with a model I didn’t know!).

I loved the engagement we had with the students, after each session they would come to the stand and write what their perception of beauty was, they would then pose with their sign for a picture.  One of my favourites was “Beautiful is… Beneath the makeup”.  I really hope the chatter between the girls and with us as they were deciding what to write and taking their pictures challenged them.

What overwhelmed me more was the reaction from teachers/tutors – so many approached us at the end all eager to discuss the roadshows and the work we did.  Everyone of them I spoke to was very aware of the problem, many felt it was escalating especially in light of social media, so many thought there was nothing else around that could help and really identified a need.  Some of the PSHE teachers were mentioning esteem and the contributing cause to things like eating disorders and they were interested in the work the roadshows do with parents.

I think one thing, that I know stood out to Emma too, was when a tutor asked – what happens now after the students hearing this and going out to watch a catwalk show with all the models? – a really good question and very valid point!!!

It is one thing inviting campaigns like Beautiful is to represent at The Clothes Show, and I know from the increased engagement we had on the stand how beneficial the seminars themselves are, but, the startling reality is that outside of that room where expert speakers equip and empower youngsters and tell them about their individuality and how to be confident and passionate, the students then are bombarded with constant messages in direct contradiction about the perception of beauty and conforming to the standards set by the Hair & Beauty and Fashion industry.

What a thought that maybe students could hear on a panel that their value comes from within and that they are individual and should be celebrated as such, and then, when they walk out to the catwalk shows, they see a diverse range of models, maybe that some of the advertisements had not been airbrushed and photoshopped within an inch of their life? I wonder how many of the clothes show visitors were approached about their college / uni plans or their skills and experience with regards to working as opposed to the number that were approached by model scouts, makeup artists offering contouring and fashion brands offering corsetts and waist trimmers?  Don’t get me wrong I have an amazing pair of sucky in knickers from debanhams, the contouring thing if, I had enough time and patience I dare say I’d give it a shot but all of that is with the understanding it doesn’t make me a better person or a different person and it doesn’t define who I am.  I think its the reasons behind things and the motivation that is as important a factor as anything else.  I bet given the opportunity I can outshop most of those girls even now – but I have learned – the hard way and by Gods grace I think, that those things arent important.  I could walk around the NEC in my heels and makeup that isn’t wrong IF I know and understand it isn’t that that makes me Rachel, it isn’t that, that defines who I am, and it isnt that, that makes me valuable.

I think if we can arm a generation to see the beauty and individuality in themselves and their friends I personally think the power of that would be seen in lots of things – self esteem plays a part in so much, at the least we might see a happier generation with higher school attendance or grades – who is to say we couldn’t see a drop in eating disorders, mental health issues or bullying.

Definitely food for thought – I really hope Beautiful is get the opportunity to attend more of these events there is so much work to be done.

If you are interested in the work done please look at the programmes page on The Friendly Development page or even better contact them directly to discuss.  The charity are self funded so if you want to help head over to their donate page too!


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