Beyond the hype surrounding final year graduates and their catwalk shows, this year sees the launch of the All Walks Centre(part of the All Walks initiative) – Britain’s first educational centre dedicated to changing the industry’s outlook on andpromoting diverse body shape.
'We want student fashion designers to be introduced to a realistic range of body shapes during their training process. Diversity can enhance craftsmanship not impede it,’ says All Walks, Co Founders Caryn Franklin, Debra Bourne and Erin O’Connor.
With sights set high on conveying and implementing the message, Yankeemagazines bagged some time with Mal Burkinshaw, Edinburgh College of Arts course leader, and All Walks Centre director at the Earls Court, GFW venue.
FU: Why do you think there is a call for the All Walks initiative now more than ever?
MB: I think the idea of promoting diverse body shape within fashion has been very fad like. It has come in and out, but we realised we needed to create something educational to ingrain such ideas and to make a change - through design students and their curriculum – i.e work from the ground up.
FU: Talk me through the topics/areas the course will cover?
MB: Mainly we aim to make students more emotionally considerate to ‘real sized’ women. Courses will include 6-7 week projects looking at how garments can be sized up and down, rather than just being made for sample sized models. Students will also do fittings on bespoke mannequins we have had made to reflect different body shaped women and to encourage them to connect to real sized women through fashion.
FU: You are also a course leader at the Edinburgh College of Art, what changes have you noticed about the industry over the years?
MB: The industry has grown – there are more fashion design students than ever before but all they care about are catwalks and models. They need to connect and understand the consumer. All Walks looks to making that connection possible via emotionally considerate design.
FU:Govt minister, Lynne Featherstone, will be at the launch event (7th June), who are you aiming the message at?
MB: Everyone! It may sound cliché but fashion really does embrace everything. We particularly are looking get other institutions on board, in particular all the universities.
FU: There is a roll call of great fashion names backing the initiative – Erin O’connor etc – talk me through some of the most memorable experiences you’ve had/people you’ve worked with/advice given?
MB: I wouldn’t say it’s so much about one particular experience I have had with them – more the great enthusiasm, passion and dedication we have to the cause, which is both binding and really rewarding.
FU: What do you want the initiative to have achieved within the next five years?
MB: Edinburgh is hardly the hub of fashion, so I want the initiative to have spread across the UK. I want our ‘bugword’, emotionally considerate design, to be ingrained in education. And I want designers to be on board. As, ultimately, if a designer is making garments with varying body shapes in mind, it is opening them up to so many more consumers. Style doesn’t have to be all about the shallow connotations, clothes and wellbeing can work hand in hand.