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All Walks Beyond the Catwalk: Debate & Groskop’s Response

For an industry that prefers the colour black it’s amazing how grey things may appear. A known fact highlighted by the Observer’s Viv Groskop in her article Supermodel demands new code to end airbrushing/Super model Erin O’Connor slams fashion world for lying to women. Said article addresses the debate that was held Friday evening, February 12th, 2011 at the National Portrait Gallery in London. The organizers? All Walks Beyond The Catwalk, an initiative established by Caryn Franklin, Debra Bourne and Erin O’Connor to “celebrate and educate” in the promotion of diversity on the catwalk and in the media.

Friday evening’s debate involved a lot of education, and even more celebration. Something Groskop failed to pick up on. Another shortfall of her synthesis? The omission of several amazing quotes from the panel, including O’Connor’s.

Like any debate there are two sides to a story. Unfortunately, Groskop represented only one perspective. This is mine, the other perspective.

Let’s start with language. Groskop describes All Walk’s co-founder and debate mediator Caryn Franklin as leading “the attack.” Attack against whom? The fashion industry? There were two fashion industry ambassadors on the panel, both of whom willingly engaged in meaningful and rational discussion: Elle UK’s editor in chief Lorraine Candy and supermodel Erin O’Connor. Hardly a battlefield, and quite frankly, no bloodshed.

I’m also conscious of the fact that headlines serve to grab attention and sell product, but I think there’s a responsibility for one’s headline to represent the content of one’s article. Groskop’s catchy web based headline Super model Erin O’Connor slams fashion world for lying to women is completely inaccurate.

Groskop quotes the model as saying, “Fashion is built on fantasy. There is a sense of uniformity. We have forgotten how to be individuals.” She omits, however, O’Connor’s championing of an industry that highlighted her flaws and extremes “in a very positive way.” “I think it’s really important to say that I’m a fan of the industry. I’m also a promoter of the industry…It’s artistic, and for me in many ways it’s incredibly liberating.”

What I’m most concerned with is not the accuracy of Groskop’s headline, or the bias she writes with. I’m concerned that by putting forth a sound bite that’s so inaccurate and misleading Groskop has effectively entered this sensationalized perspective into the media machine, and subsequently into the minds of many, thereby tarnishing the healthy discussion that took place Friday evening.

I’m concerned that this backlash will discourage industry leaders from showing support, from further engaging in the discussion. Without their leadership and experience it becomes increasingly more difficult to find “A productive and practical solution” and disuades those who may affect change from “working together in a respectable, emotionally intelligent way.”*

*Erin O’Connor



For the original piece written by Viv Groskop, the Guardian’s Observer, click here.

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