Wednesday, 6 January 2016

The Equality Collection: Not So Equal

Clothes: BOB by DOP Model: Angela Scanlon Photography: © David Loftus
I loved Dawn O’Porter’s Channel 4 series about vintage and sustainable fashion last year. I loved it when she opened an online vintage and vintage-inspired clothing boutique. I loved it when she opened pop up shops. So when I saw the press release for her Equality Collection I think it’s fair to say I got a bit overexcited.

It started with so much promise; a print called “Love Wins” is described as a “funny and vibrant print featuring couples of all shapes, sizes, creeds, colours, sexes and even species”. That sounds cute. It looks nice in the little image accompanying the press release.

The “Boys Toys” print promotes genderless play, by putting typically “boy” toys into a print on women’s clothing. I mean, from what I can see it’s mostly a dinosaur print but whatever, I like dinosaurs! I’m sold!

And then there’s the “Women Are Boss” dress, using images of mums, office workers and women just doing stuff. That’s cool too – acknowledging that women can fulfil multiple roles is a great thing, and turning it into a print is an interesting concept. So far, so good.

And then, hidden away in the final paragraph, I see the words: Each piece is a limited edition with sizes ranging from 8-16*”.

Oh. Oh dear.

The UK average dress size is 16. As someone who could probably only just about squeeze into the largest size this collection has to offer, I still have to ask: what is “equal” about a collection that only caters to the UK average dress size and smaller? In fact, what is “equal” about a collection that features fat people on a fabric, but doesn’t make sizes that would allow real fat people to wear the print? Nothing. There’s nothing equal about that.

I think this collection’s heart is in the right place and the pieces themselves look lovely. Dawn O’Porter says in the press release:

Fashion and politics go hand in hand, the way women dressed throughout history changed the way they were able to live their lives. Anyone who denies that clothes are not powerful and a huge part of feminism is massively missing the point. Designers from previous decades created shapes and ideas that transformed what it meant to be female, and now I get to take those vintage styles and incorporate a modern sensibility. The Equality Collection prints are beautiful and funny, but they also carry a serious message. Our prints look fantastic, but they also have a lot to say.’

That’s all well and good, Dawn, but a truly “modern sensibility” would take into account the actual bodies of modern women, and as such women above a size 16 should be considered. Evidently BOB by DOP haven’t done this.

Plus size women are used to brands not catering to us. We’re used to being excluded from limited edition ranges and high-fashion brands. It’s frustrating and upsetting that the majority of retailers are happy to provide for women up to 5 sizes below the average size, but will only usually stretch to a size 18 on the higher end. The fact that this collection doesn’t have anything larger than a 16* on its own would be disappointing, but the fact that the clothing actually has fat people in the prints without providing fat people with an inclusive size range is borderline fetishistic. It’s definitely exploitative. It’s really just a complete fail.

If you're happy to put fat people on your clothes, you should be willing to put fat people in them too.

*UPDATE:

Since I published this blog, Dawn O'Porter tweeted me to say that her press release mistakenly stated the size range. Apparently they stock sizes 8-18. Except in the skirt. I argued that this wasn't really much better. She also said that the two plus size people clearly seen on the shirt in the image above are normal-sized people in "giant animal costumes". Draw your own conclusions from that one.
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4 comments

  1. You make a very valid point in your blog post, however I don't feel it fair that you say Dawn "hasn't seen fit" to respond to your tweet - the press release was only released today 6th Jan 2016 (as far as I can tell). Had it been a few days ago, I would see why you be annoyed at a lack of response.

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    1. I'm literally in the process of updating as she has now responded... though, in my opinion, her response doesn't really help.

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  2. This is SO right on. People want to hop on the body positvity wagon for selling points withut considering the people that it exists for.

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    1. The real shame is that the collection itself is lovely and the prints are really cool. AND like I've said, I'll usually just take limited size ranges in stride. On this occasion though, it just stank that bit more.

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