Wednesday night I had the amazing privilege and honor to attend a panel discussion, A Culture of Extraordinary, hosted by The Li.st. The panel included the ever fabulous Stacy London, Marie Claire’s Lea Goldman, Vixxenn’s Nicole Sanchez, and my friend Julie Sygiel of Dear Kate.
I have posted a bit on social media about my wonderful interaction with Stacy London after the panel discussion but I want to mention something that happened mid discussion when I posed a question to the ladies.
I will admit that I was rambling a bit from nerves – (Stacy is a huge inspiration of mine) – and excitement (that a friend of mine has reached such a fabulous level of success at such a young age.) I began to bring up big name brands such as DKNY and Rick Owens claiming to use “real people” as their models and getting huge pats on the back because of it.
If you read my last post about DKNY you know I am less than impressed and that I feel that when we use the word real as a qualifier for some we are subsequently labeling others as not real.
I was equally unimpressed and disappointed with the answer given by Nicole of Vixxenn. She implied that I felt DKNY deserved no praise as a design house (which is definitely not what I meant) by going on about their hard work and long journey to get where they are today.
To quote a wonderfully well written article by Jenny Trout – “Just because we like something doesn’t mean it’s above reproach. We should practice turning a critical eye on the media we consume, as it gives us a chance to view our own thoughts through the lens of pop culture. This helps us learn about internalized prejudices we might otherwise have never realized we had.”. Please do not confuse my criticism of DKNY’s so-called “street casting” as a negative response to their brand as a whole. Donna Karen is incredibly talented and their design house is a long standing institution.
Her response to my actual question – regarding the harmfulness of using the word real – was that we all need to own up to the fact that fashion and beauty is not reality. Fashion and beauty are not for everyone. Fashion and beauty exist to create a world in which we want to emulate, we want to be a part of, so that we will spend.
Now I am aware that many companies work off of this model – but that is not how I ever intend to work.
Fashion and beauty are for everyone. As we are all equally deserving of feeling and looking our best – no matter our shape, size, age, height, weight, style, or status. The problem I have with DKNYs “real people” casting is not that they are trying to bring fashion to the masses – it’s that they are not succeeding in doing so.
Dr. Gail Dines said “If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business.” And so what if – instead of feeding off of insecurities – we nurtured confidence. What if – instead of looking at what another woman has and feeling less than – we felt equal. What if you looked at a clothing ad or beauty ad and instead of seeing a standard that you will never fit – you saw yourself?
I know we are a long way away. But I believe we can get there.