Risky Business: Creative Industries & Social Responsibility // a write up

13th July 2015

Together with fellow member Sarah Bunter, we organised a discussion to address the current dictated perimeters of what is prescribed as aspirational within today’s media. Focusing mainly on marketing and trends, what is the impact that restricting diversity can have on both individuals and society – does the responsibility of ‘change’ lie with the consumers, the brands, neither or both?

The panel included:

Sarah Bunter – Casting Director (event co-curator)

Araceli Camargo – Cognitive Neuroscientist

Cameron McNee – Fashion Photographer

Alex Knapp – International Development Strategist

Garry Dods – Marketing Director

Alex Simonini – Creative Director

Fraser Belk – Director & Founder of Established Models (formerly at Models 1)

Dal Chodha – Editor of Archivist and co-contributor to ShowStudio

Amy Greenhough – mainboard IMG model & PhD candidate at Kingston

Patrick Egbon-Marshall – head-booker, AMCK models

Why is this discussion necessary?

  • This decade is possibly our most prolific and fast-paced in regards to the creation and distribution of fashion and lifestyle imagery.

Can these limited ideals have a potential harmful impact on both society and individuals?

What are our current experiences and difficulties?

  • Limited vision in decision-making – in particular barriers in age, race, character. Adhering to these parameters is considered safer and ‘less risk’. These ‘risks’ however often go explained or tend to be unfounded. Limitations are more prominent in Campaigns, especially single model shoots. Also within catwalk casting but usually more prominent when casting for shoots with a much greater reach and prominent place in society ie billboards, outdoor, paid-for advertising space etc

What could be the potential reasons that casting limitations exist?

Currently responses include:

  • Money. Non-caucasian models won’t sell clothes
  • Non-caucasian models don’t ‘fit’
  • People can’t identify with non-caucasian models

Does fashion media images influence society in regards to aspirations, inclusion and individuals’ own feelings of potential?  Ie can this ‘one vision of beauty’ effect self worth?

  • It is felt that these images are frustrating and unchanging.  Everyone is talking about it but nobody is doing anything

What could be potential new solutions to encourage new ideas?

How do we overcome restrictions and does confrontation work?

  • We can use imagery instead of words to explain a message.  Words can be offensive or wrongly construed and images are more simple way to portray a feeling or image to suggest ideas.  Ask a brand their core values and aims and then provide moodboard imagery in order to fit with a brands’ ideals.
  • To avoid conflict and barriers it is often better to stress the importance of concentrating on the future.  Aiming to avoid criticing decisions made in the past, but focus more on the changing future and how a new set of ideas need to be considered in order to be considered modern in a forward-thinking society. eg “this may have worked then, but this is what can work for now…”

Are there other ways to convince and encourage people to think outside of the current dictated perimeters?

  • A big recommendation for ‘consistency’. Being reliable and with a high standard of previous work and clients can help gain trust.  Trust is integral to negotiation, persuasion and resolution.
  • Education. Both parents and teachers can encourage younger people in regards to a more positive self-image.  Teachers can also correct students if following an incorrect definition of ‘diversity’ and encourage students to look further and have better and more varied ideas about consumers’ potential aspirations.

Can style leaders push change with constant discussion and example?  Will others follow…

  • More recommendations for authenticity.  Marketing will buy into this if you stand by your morals and stay focused.

Also discussed

  • If every brand wants to be memorable, why are companies so unwilling to take a risk?
  • If we continue to only work within the prescribed perimeters of ‘beauty’, should the creative industries bear any responsibility for the impact their images make on society? (if they shouldn’t, then who should?)
  • Should casting require a law regarding equal opportunities?
  • Should we ‘give the people what they want’?  (who is deciding what ‘they want’ and how can change happen if new possibilities are never demonstrated?)
  • Does the responsibility of ‘change’ lie with the consumers or the brands, neither or both?

Concluding ideas

  • Everybody should have a social responsibility within their work and how they conduct their professional lives.
  • An external body should be in place to ensure models and pro-diversity designers and directors do not lose work for not conforming to a generic and creatively-limiting set of ideals.  This body should be able to advise and offer parameters on more specific situations, offering strength and back-up to those under criticism for speaking out.
  • Until ‘law’ can over-ride money in regards to decision-making, hopefully re-education can help.  Brands reluctant to make change can hopefully learn via discussion, encouragement and new opportunities.  To not adapt will equal an old-fashioned outlook and therefore not aspirational ie the ‘Super-size Me’ effect on fast-food chains – step up and change or feel embarrassed, dated and unhealthy.
  • If law is the only way to proceed over money, can ‘shame’ override both?

Next Steps

  • To discuss further with editorial publications, trend prediction agencies, governing bodies and relevant brands.
  • To develop discussion into a number of further topics (available upon request)