May 11, 2021

A Letter To Anyone Who’s Ever Felt Bad About How They Look

Fashion Week is upon us again. If looking at images of models leads you to dislike your own appearance then I encourage you to think again. I say this because what you’re looking at is a final, rather artificial creation, not the reality. Let me to take you behind the scenes.

I own a fashion label. How glamorous you may think. That is where the fallacy begins, where the first polish is applied. Most people think the fashion industry consists of endless flamboyance and dazzlingly beautiful people. Never more so than during a fashion shoot or catwalk show. We’re given the impression that it’s a world of wonder. Actually, it’s rather ordinary. Fashion shoots are more about logistics. They are carefully curated and meticulously managed. The message, conveyed through images, needs to be tightly controlled.

An integral part of the process is the choice of model. For anyone who aspires to be a model, I would like them to know that models spend more time being rejected than accepted for jobs. Most won’t even make the cut of a casting which is when a model is measured, asked to try on various pieces and to pose – and all in front of a critical audience who may or may not voice their critique in earshot of their subject. Models need a thick skin.

Once chosen, the model is the blank canvas upon which the message will be painted and exhibited. When I say blank canvas it’s important to remember the care and attention a model gives to their looks. After all, their appearance is their livelihood. The commitment to exercise, the food and drink discipline, the hair and skincare regimes. Having a pizza and a glass of wine may be something we take for granted, for a model it would have to be seriously thought through. Beauty comes with sacrifice.

Photo shoots involve a set or a location, about which everything is precisely selected, sometimes at great cost – and all to project just the right message. And know that there is a team of professionals. The photographer will be experienced and equipped with vast technical knowledge as well as an abundance of sophisticated apparatus. They will know how to get the best shot. The hair and make-up artist with their seemingly incessant supply of brushes, palettes and pots. A model will spend around two hours having their hair styled and their make-up applied – by an expert. They will also be helped to dress.

So consider the investment that has taken place before a single photograph has even been snapped. And when they step out on to the set the team will remain at the ready to tidy away a loose strand, to smooth out a crease, to fold down a collar. It is a process that will be repeated throughout. On a shoot a model is constantly attended to. Their job is to know how to follow direction and to tell the story through poses. To do this well they need to be perfectly comfortable in front of a camera and an audience. They are not themselves, they are playing a part.

The day is often a long one. The photographs that will be chosen will be a select few of the very many that will be taken. It takes time. As an analogy, the iconic scene of Marilyn Monroe fighting down the skirt of a white dress over a subway grate took 14 takes and three hours and then had to be re-shot because it still wasn’t right.

And when the shoot is over and the shortlist has been made, the retouching begins. This is a powerful software tool that can eradicate skin blemishes, brighten a complexion, taper in a waist, increase height and much, much more. And this is after professional hair and make-up, perfect lighting, a skilful photographer and an attentive team of personal assistants.

Is it any wonder that the result, the final cut that we see shows an image of someone who looks as good as perfect? Why then should we allow this to undermine our confidence? Imagine how you would look after such a regimen – and I hope you remember that next time you see a picture of a model in a magazine.

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