In 2015, Charli Howard was dropped by her modelling agency for being ‘too fat’, despite the fact she was just a UK size 6 at the time.
The experience highlighted for her just how warped the fashion industry’s perspective on body image had become, and from then on she was determined to do something about it.
After moving away from the UK, Charli met body positivity fashion model and blogger Clémentine Desseaux, and together they decided to launch a body positivity movement and celebrate diversity in the industry.
The All Woman Project is changing attitudes around the world, and celebrates the work of all models, regardless of size.
Still in her early 20s, Charli is one of the models making a real difference in the fashion industry in 2017. loaded caught up with her to discuss how changing attitudes towards size are changing thanks to movements like the All Woman Project.
loaded: How did the All Woman Project first come about?
Charli: Basically, I moved to New York because I was dropped by my English agency for being too fat. But I was a UK 6 at the time, and I had quite a bad eating disorder. Anyway, I moved to New York and when I got there I discovered this plus-size industry, and I’ve never ever heard of it before. I didn’t even really know it existed. These girls were beautiful, and they were about a UK size 10, which is still smaller than the average size, and they were doing massive campaigns and all this amazing work. I was still doing skinny modelling at the time, and then I met this plus-size model called Clémentine. We questioned why we didn’t see skinny models and plus-size girls together on the same campaigns. They were always kind of separated or put into categories. We thought ‘let’s create some pictures and a video where girls of all different shapes and sizes all come together’.
loaded: What impact on the industry did you want to make with the All Woman Project?
Charli: The modelling industry is great but there’s so many flaws to it as well, especially when it comes to weight and measurements and that kind of thing. It doesn’t make sense, the system is flawed: They want everyone to have the same measurements whether you’re 5’ 11” or 5’ 6”, and that’s different for all sorts of women. I do love modelling, it’s just that there are a lot of things that could be done to change it. What we want to do with the All Woman Project is showcase different bodies, so the girls looking at it feel represented. Not only that, but I’m sure from a man’s point of view, men don’t just want to see super skinny women, or just plus-size women. Men and women view beauty completely differently, and each person views it completely differently. So we wanted to showcase bodies of all shapes, sizes, colours… that kind of thing.
loaded: You’ve had a big reaction on Instagram. Has social media changed the way people see body positivity in recent years?
I think there’s a bit of a movement going on in general. We had the whole size 0 thing, and I think whenever you have anything as extreme as that, there’s going to be a backlash. There are loads of models and projects coming forward, we just happen to be one of the bigger ones. There are loads of girls now who feel like they don’t have to have to be photoshopped, or look a certain way. I think fashion is also taking note of that: If you look at magazines and brands, the likes of H&M are using bigger models for example, America Eagle are hiring models of all different shapes and sizes. I think there is a change happening in the industry, as well as Instagram.
To be honest I think there’s more a change happening in American than there is in England. The plus-size industry in England isn’t the same at all. I hate to say it, but it’s not really taken seriously. In America plus-size models are actually doing high-fashion jobs, and they’re doing high-fashion jobs. There’s no other place in the world that’s doing that.
loaded: Ashley Graham is obviously a huge name in the US. Is she someone the fashion industry can learn from?
Charli: Absolutely. Men fancy her and women want to be her, and she’s bigger. That’s kind of the point – women will be drawn to other beautiful women no matter what their size is.
loaded: Attitudes do seem to be changing. Has it been a gradual thing, or have attitudes towards plus-size models only changed very recently?
Charli: For me it feels almost like it’s happened instantly, it’s really weird. It definitely is gradual though, it’s not where is should be yet. But there are a few names coming forward that are making it into a different thing, and I think 2017 is certainly going to be the year in history where body positivity is part of a cultural thing, and maybe a historical thing too.
loaded: Has it been hard to get the thinner, so called ‘straight models’ on board with the movement?
Charli: Yeah, it has. There’s a kind of – not snobbery – but a lot of models don’t want to be associated with the plus-size thing. It’s kind of stupid, because it is just a word. Some of these girls are bigger, and they’re proud to call themselves fat. But there’s a lot of girls who just don’t want to be associated with that term at all, and there are agents who don’t want their clients to be associated with it too. There’s certainly still work to be done there. I mean, I’m kind of considered in between, in terms of size. I’m a size 8-10, and I’ll find that I go to castings and I’ll be too thin for some people and too fat for others. There’s no industry in the middle, really. You can’t be who you are, you’ve got to fit into one category or the other. It’s weird. If you look at glamour modelling, or the stuff loaded used to do, the girls are size ten, and they’re not considered fat. It’s just a fashion thing. It’s really not a difficult concept, this is what I can’t get my head around. The idea is there: If you’re beautiful, you’re beautiful whatever size you are.