Saturday, 16 February 2013

CARYN FRANKLIN MBE in the #ESPspotlight LONDON FASHION WEEK SPECIAL - PART ONE!


As childhood dreams go, it's very rare that we ever get to meet the icons that shape our earliest thoughts and ideas, much less greet them in the capacity that left a mark on you in the first place. When I interviewed The Clothes Show Live Show Producer, Marayam Hamizadeh last December; I touched on how much of an inspiration a particular British Fashion ICON had been for me, for as long as I could remember. When I was invited to cover two events at London Fashion Week a few weeks ago, I first asked a really rather talented Japanese Executive Creative Director of a few worldwide Fashion Shows for his advice on what to expect from a major fashion event (you could say he's had a bit of practice); but there was really only one person that could truly give me the best inside scoop.

Ms. Caryn Franklin MBE was kind enough to provide the best birthday pressie a girl could ask for this Monday gone, by sitting down for a 1:1 with a lifelong fan...










Welcome Ms Franklin! I cannot stress enough how honoured I am to have you grace my blog, especially during one of your biggest weeks of the year, so a massive Thank You for your time.

1. As a little girl, come early Sunday evening, there was only ever one place that you would find me: sat on the floor, as close as I could get to my Gran's TV, watching The Clothes Show and waiting for you to tell me about new fashions I had never heard of, was too young to understand, but desperately wanted to try someday. In short, you were my first fashion icon – but who was yours and how did they inspire you?

Fashion Empress and Teacher of all things wonderful,
Caryn Franklin, MBE



That's a really good question! My very first when I was a little girl would have been my Mother, of course she will. She was a very beautiful woman, hopefully all little girls look up to their Mums; she used to go to the hairdressers on special Fridays when she was going out - this is in the 70s - and come back with flowers in her hair; I just thought it was the most magical thing ever. She was like my own personal Fairy Queen.





Maryam Hamizadeh, Show Producer for The Clothes Show Live also graced the blog a few months ago and talked about the importance of education and on the job training in successfully delivering within your role.

2. You earned your BA(Hons) in Graphic Design, but have done so much more than I imagine the course to have covered – as a lecturer yourself, so heavily involved in education, where would you say the most valuable part of your training has come from?

You cannot pinpoint the most valuable part of training. Anybody in practice is learning all the time - I'm still learning. I've been learning for 30 years and I will continue learning. Anybody that I come into touch with has stuff to teach me; not just about the job, but about being a human being and that's part of the fun really, of being involved in the creative world. You're never engaging with a set formula - well you shouldn't be. You are always open to new, exciting ways of doing things, of seeing things, of feeling things, of experiencing things and of communicating things.

3. I can’t think of too many people – women especially, who had the foresight to become their own brand before online marketing really existed. What were you seeing within the Entertainment Industry at the time that made you decide to create your ‘How To Look Good’ website, now celebrating its first decade?

Ms Franklin's 'Ageless Style' ebook is available
from the 'How To Look Good' website

'How To Look Good' was really just a response to ordinary women coming up to me in the street and asking questions about their bodies. They might say: "where can I get shoes in a wider fit?" or "Where can I get a bra that will give me a JJ cup size, but I've got a very narrow back?" "Where can I get longer lengths for trousers?" For awhile, I would try to hold it all in my head and then it got too much. 'How To Look Good' was really just a place to put it all; so when people ask me questions now I can say: "Listen, I've done an e-book on that - you can go and download it for free". So that I feel I can give people the answers that they want and they can look into it in their own time.




4. Your dedication to education and raising awareness in the Fashion Industry earned you a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2013 Honours List. Firstly Congratulations (well deserved)! Second, what inspired you to take the brave step of co-forming All Walks Beyond The Catwalk?

Ms. Franklin's official title on Her Majesty's 2013 Honours List
Thank you. I've always been a very vocal communicator. I recognised the power that Fashion has to be an amazing carrier of message to women about their bodies. When we first began Fashion Targets Breast Cancer nearly seventeen years ago, working directly with Ralph Lauren and Breakthrough Breast Cancer, also I had an incredible platform with the BBC - I was able to promote the work that we were doing with 'Fashion Targets' and I saw this enormous take up from women who felt that the Fashion Industry was bringing them important information; but it wasn't about hemlines, it wasn't about trends, it was about health. We normalised talking about breast health and breast care; we normalised talking about early presentation saves lives and through all the work that we did, we helped build and maintain Britain's first dedicated Breast Cancer Research Centre.

So that was an incredible learning curve for me, to see just how powerful fashion is when it is carrying messages to women about their bodies. With 'All Walks'; I really wanted to harness that power. I've been very vocal for a long time about what I see as unachievable body ideals that are constantly promoted - especially to young women. In the last 5 years, we've had a huge digital revolution which has meant that imagery has changed. The way it's recorded has changed; it requires post-production work now that means with no boundaries, there's an enormous amount of post-production work that is confusing people when they engage with it. They don't realise just how much change takes place. And this is part of the deluge of information that they're getting. But also now, young women see so much digital information which reaches them either via their phone, via their screens, as well as all the usual advertising hard copy, billboards, landscape advertising copy.


allwalks.org (Photo courtesy of taliarose.wordpress.com)
I really began to feel that women were under siege and increasingly, young men. And from the conversations I was having, all the time about it, I recognised that someone from our industry needed to say, we don't all feel that this is the way forward. We don't want people who engage with fashion to feel undermined, we want them to feel empowered. And so that's what 'All Walks' is about; Erin O'Connor, Deborah Bourne and I were talking about this and we'd also be talking with Susan Ringwood, Chief Executive of 'b-eat', which is the UK's biggest eating disorder charity and we wanted to make our very first campaign a positive promotion of what fashion could be, which is really, quite simply, a broader range of bodies, of sizes, skintones...it really isn't rocket science, it was that simple. We finished working with Susan Ringwood after that first campaign, but Erin, Deborah and I realised that we'd opened the floodgates. The responses that we got were so strong that we knew we needed to improve what we were doing and to go on and develop it and make it more effective

So what we would say we do now, is engage with the practitioners of tomorrow, in Universities and Colleges to help them understand the power they have to change the fashion landscape.

5. What’s next on the ‘All Walks’ campaign agenda and how can ordinary people like myself get involved?

'Diversity NOW!' (Photo courtesy of benbarry.com)
Next for us on the agenda is seeing the results of our college competition called 'Diversity Now' which we'll be announcing at Graduate Fashion Week, where we've asked the next generation of creatives at art college to show us what their meaning of diversity is, so that we can promote that from our platform. We see, really that our initiative, which involves creating the diversity network in Edinburgh, lobbying in Parliament, creating far-reaching initiatives that speak to people - that is something that's ongoing. It's all voluntary, what we do so when we can get Sponsorship for the next campaign, we will then begin another big visual at London Fashion Week

How women can get involved right now, to decide to celebrate who they are and not to engage with anything that is undermining their confidence. To recognise that the more you see of an unachievable image, the more you normalise it in your head, the more it becomes an ideal which has the potential to destabilise you. For us, we feel that operating from the heart, creating fashion communications that does celebrate the power of clothes, the beauty of design, the excitement of fashion, but also offers a celebration of who we are is something that needs to be addressed by us, the Industry and by you, the Consumer - that's an important part of our work.

The doors of Somerset House opened for the Day One of London Fashion Week AW13 today. I’ll be venturing down to cover a few shows but this is my very first outing so I'm a bit daunted! If The Clothes Show Live is your second home, this is surely your third!

6. Do you remember your very first show? What were you most nervous about, did you make any mistakes?

My very first shows were as Fashion Editor of i-D magazine so that was many, many years ago - it was over 25 years ago! Memory, memory, memory - a trip down memory lane...! I was really excited at the energy that I had felt. When you're standing in - we call them 'The Tents', whether they're in a tent or not - but when you're standing in there and the music belts out and the bright lights...There's a rhythm to a catwalk show that grabs you by the heartbeat. There's a lot of adrenalin and a lot of excitement. I can still remember that and I can remember being so excited by seeing people who I thought - this person's going to go all the way...

Seeing Alexander McQueen's first show a few years later and demanding that we covered him on The Clothes Show. Demanding! Stamping my feet, even though my series producer didn't want to, because he wasn't a 'fashion person' and he didn't recognise the energy


Photo courtesy of fashionfoiegras.com

7. What advice would you have given your less experienced self?


All Walk 'Every Body Counts' campaign page
(Photo courtesy of allwalks.org)

I think it's easy to feel, when you're brand new to anything, that you are somehow insignificant because you're not in the front row and because you don't have a big powerful publication; but I would say that every individual in the building is as significant as the most accomplished, most recognisable figures - simply because your opinion counts.


Every Body Counts - that's the name of one of our campaigns, but it's true. Everybody's entitled to an opinion and you have to start somewhere. So, one day you might be at the beginning of your career, but fast forward 20 years and you will be in charge of a team, you will be broadcasting your ideas to a much bigger community and if you are politicised and you are knowledgeable about all of the issues and you're still able to connect from your heart to the pure creativity, pure excitement and the pure privilege of working in an industry like this, then it will serve you well and you will serve it well

From Top Model, to Project Runway - there’s a wealth of advice and guidance out there for budding models, designers and artists, but nothing for us Writers looking to follow in your footsteps.

8. Would you be kind enough to give us some top tips on how to make sure we get the best out of the shows, the key ideals we should keep in mind and also the common mistakes we should avoid at all costs?

Well first of all, I would say the trends and the shows are a portion of Fashion; so for any Writer, I would say it's important to be open to all the components that make up the Fashion Industry. Everybody prioritises Fashion Weeks and high-end designer creativity as the only thing that's happening, but it isn't. It is a huge industry and that's definitely the embodiment of glamour. But for me, as a Commentator - and maybe Writers also have the power to think about themselves as Commentators and as Reformers - if you have an opinion, you need to be engaged with the industry, you can't just observe it. 

Suzy Menkes (photo courtesy of ffw.com.br)
So my best tip for anybody who's writing, is that your opinion counts. If you feel something and you feel it strongly and you want to document it, then that's the best place to operate from. Quite often, viewing the trends and recording the trends, doesn't always engage people from the heart; it becomes quite a mechanical, formulaic way of viewing fashion. Some of the 'fashion speak' that I read, where I think to myself, "are you listening to yourself?!" It certainly concerns me that there's not enough thinking going on in assessment of fashion industry behaviour. So good Writers - if you're just starting out, aligning yourself with people whose opinions you value and whose writing you believe in...in our industry, Suzy Menkes has always provided a very methodical, pragmatic and knowledgeable account of the industry as a bigger, wider force than just catwalk trends. She is a prolific writer.

I particularly like it when outsiders come into our industry and write about it. And also I particularly like it when I feel people have opinions about image that don't rely on them wanting the fashion industry to approve of them. So I read people like Susie Orbach, whose book 'Bodies' I think is highly influential. That's the key thing. As somebody operating within the fashion industry you've got to work out your position. How much will you be engaging with the industry in a formulaic way, because it wants you to operate within a formula to earn money and how much will you be developing your own opinions, your own authenticity and honouring your own integrity? Because in every industry, these are the challenges

You've been instrumental in delivering education, changing legislation and bringing awareness to the issues surrounding diversity and health in fashion;

9. Where would you like to see ‘fashion-thinking’ progress most in the next 10 years?

I would like to see the industry policing itself with an understanding of its power. And with the celebration of that power comes recognition of responsibility and of desire to operate in an authentic way, with integrity. The challenges that I see now, may not be the challenges in years to come, it may be a completely different thing that we need to be looking at; but what I do understand, is that the psychological impact of depending on one unachievable body ideal, needs to be better explored by our industry and better understood by our industry, in order that it can operate with a more loving and a more empowering approach for its consumers.

10. Is there any chance we could get you to do another TV stint, in the style of the shows mentioned earlier, aimed at aspiring writers and presenters?


(Photo courtesy of Kingston University Website)


That always, in the past, has depended on us finding a broadcaster! But I know now, that with digital platforms and YouTube, it's an exciting space where we can all be our own broadcasters so, I'll just have to add that to my list of things 'To-Do'...



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I cannot thank Ms. Franklin enough for the absolute honour of granting an interview. Those 20 minutes were a true 'bucket list' moment and her personal praise and recognition of my work so far will stay with me to the end of my days!


Connect with Ms. Franklin, How To Look Good and All Walks Beyond The Catwalk via their respective Social Media Catalogues:



All Walks Beyond The Catwalk on Twitter / Facebook / Website

How To Look Good on Twitter / Facebook / Website / YouTube

How was your Day One, LFW Pilgrims? Thoughts, feedback and summations are welcomed in the suggestion box below. For now, I'm heeding the gold dust advice of an absolute LEGEND and getting my prep work in for my first event this Sunday!

Don't miss Parts Two and Three in this London Fashion Week series over the coming weeks - Reviews of the 'Felicities Presents...Emerging Designers' Showcase and the Lulu Liu Catwalk Show! Do you have any pointers? I want to hear from you!

See you next time!
ES ;)

Dedicated to my earliest and everlasting inspiriation - Thank you Mum for everything xxx