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  • Writer's pictureMia K

The Evolution of Runways

Content warning: The following article discusses topics on body image and skin lightening which may be distressing to some viewers.

For many centuries, fashion has dominated the world through its power to influence social movements, to its ability to form new social trends. It holds a significant impact on the image we present to the world and how others perceive us. Whether this be through following social trends to showering ourselves in designer brands and huge labels.

Ultimately, fashion has become the epitome of self-expression. We can express who we are and how we feel from the inside simply through our clothing or style. But is this foundation built on sincerity or conformity in an effort to be seen or accepted within society? It is strange to think that something like fashion can give others strength, whilst, for others, it can cause damage, which only regresses from the purpose of fashion.

Growth within the fashion industry

Labels and brands frequently change according to society's culture. During the 90s, hip hop had a huge influence on fashion so much so, denim and baggy clothing was incorporated into everyday fashion and became a staple piece for many designs. Following this, brands such as Guess, Versace and Calvin Klein dominated the industry with its forward fashion.

Specifically, now in 2023 we have witnessed the rise of gender neutral clothing available for anyone and everyone. Whether it be through tailored suits, jackets and dresses. Following this, we have seen the rise of Louis Vuitton valuing at ($) 14.8 billion, alongside Gucci valuing at ($) 15.6 billion, and Nike leading all these brands with a worth of ($) 30.4 billion. Most notably this has been achieved through celebrity and sport endorsement, allowing for their presence on social media to grow as a result.

The predominant image of fashion runways

Needless to say, social media has had a huge impact on fashion. However, before social media, fashion shows allowed for garments to take centre stage and influence what was considered high end or on trend for that season. The first ever fashion show dating back to 1860! Still fashion shows continue to maintain a strong image by embodying modern and revolutionary designs almost two centuries on! However, in the process it has also created this image of idealistic beauty.

Until recently, skinnier models were always preferred, as they embodied the idea of high end fashion. Their petite physiques allowed for the garment to gracefully drape down the runway. This allowed for brands to mimic what garments would look like on a mannequin creating a luxury experience. Yet, this does not speak for the strict diets models must endure to walk the runway. According to Model Alliance, 68% of runway models suffer from depression and/or eating disorders to maintain the brand image. This is largely due to models fearing being classed as "disposable", Which is why they turn to drink and smoke to keep up with the demanding industry. Healthier practices must take place to support current and aspiring models. Model Alliance is a New York based organisation which advocates for fair treatment and equal opportunity, whilst keeping mental health at the heart of what they do; allowing for a safer and supportive industry.

In an effort to encourage more diversity, plus sized models have frequently walked the runway, to allow for a better reflection of society. We can clearly see they are redefining what is considered high end, luxurious fashion. In the process they are also appealing to the body positive movement. Despite this, it feels there are mixed messages as the industry has moved towards two very different preferences. The mark is being missed; if they were really focused on diversity and representation, there would be people of average height walking the runway as well as plus sized male models, but that's not the case.

Western culture seems to be pushing diversity to help maintain a strong brand image, and in the process fashion shows are being used as a marketing campaign. Needless to say, it's great to see how fashion has evolved and become more accessible to everyone. But the attention is not fully on the garment or the inspiration behind it, but on the model wearing it.

The beauty of Indian Fashion Shows

India has gained much respect for being one of the fastest growing economies, to all the amazing landmarks and most notably their religious practices. India has always stayed true to their authenticity and has taken immense pride in celebrating their culture and traditions. Fashion is a big part of India's culture, and this too is celebrated and appreciated across the entire world.

The fashion market in India is huge and has accumulated more than $50 billion and this figure is only going to grow. By 2025, it is expected the market will grow between 11-12% estimating at more than $115 billion! Indian fashion consists of Sarees and Lehenga for women, and Kurta for men, but these are only some of their exquisite garments. Fashion shows are a big deal in India as it is a chance to showcase beautiful garments to embody this image of gracefulness and extravagance. These garments include intricate and hand made designs and it is a great way to focus on the beauty of Indian culture.

However, there are still many hurdles in terms of body image. Not only in India, but many other Asian and middle eastern cultures, lighter skin is promoted through skin bleaching products. Consequently, the skin bleaching market has accumulated $7.5 billion. This is an extortionate figure, and it is tragic to see this is a huge social issue across Asia and the Middle east. The most frightening thing is that such harsh chemicals are promoted as a household beauty product. There are numerous side effects such as scarring and the thinning of the skin, due to the chemical mercury which creates serious health problems. This is incorporated into daily culture and you can only imagine the damages to self image and mental health.

Fashion shows in India ensure to include models with different skin tones; to redefine what is beauty and to combat this social issue. By doing so, the attention is placed on the garments whilst encouraging people to feel secure in themselves. Indian fashion shows have gained a lot of admiration from many different demographics and audiences as a result.

To wrap things up!

All cultures have different expectations and standards created by society. Yet, none of which are the same. In the process of appealing to society's standards you will quickly start to lose yourself and your identity in an effort to please everyone. Body image is a reminder that you need to take pride in who you are and to focus on achieving happiness within yourself.

To put it lightly, this will not happen by forcing yourself to meet the needs of society. You will eventually blend into the background and live an unsatisfactory life at the expense of others. Embracing yourself allows for greater power, and greater power leads to serenity and peace within yourself, which is more valuable than any material fashion.


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