Relying on the margins

This is an issue that has been on my mind for some time, you see, I am not the smallest person (not just in length). I never looked like I have been hungry for a decade. I try to eat healthy, I have my regular salads and I walk a lot. I walk every day on principle, to the extent that I never bothered with a car (apart from the parking fees all over the city). So, as I go into the city to buy clothes, I am always confronted that 2XL does not cut it. Now, this is all good and proper, so I am slightly larger than the norm. But is that the case? Several sources including The Medical Journal of Australia has stated that obesity in Australia is set at 67%. Third place after New Zealand set at 68.4% (a world’s first where Australians are delighted that Kiwis have beaten them at something) and The Americans at 74.1%. We are trailed by the Barmy Army (aka the Britons) by 63.8%.

So we can state that on one side we have an issue, on the other side, it would make perfect sense that the fashion industry would cater to a need. So, explain to me why those places calling themselves fashion stores would avoid anything beyond 2XL? In some cases I get the ‘excuse’ “Oh, we ran out of stock“, or: “Let me check in the back” (whilst we all know they knew they never had any). Some just state ‘2XL is the biggest we have’. The Levi’s store has one model in 3XL (actually, more like 2XL+), yet as I went through Pitt Street, Myers, David Jones, the QVB building and the World Square Shopping Centre. When looking for decent brand clothing, only Sportscraft and Rodd and Gunn were able to satisfy my need (3XL was in some cases the biggest they had). So, why would anyone in their right mind ignore a customer base of over 50%? (I am ignoring the 3-4 shops that specifically cater to larger sizes).

Can anyone explain it to me, because it makes no business sense at all! Ibisworld states that 122,266, comprise 12,785 clothing businesses. This is of course over Australia, not just Sydney. So how many are catering to the larger sized population? The question has international impact for two reasons. First there is the economic impact. When we see ‘Popular Fashion Retailer Files for Bankruptcy. We didn’t see this coming!‘ we have to ask how stupid the quoting party is. The company has around 9000 staff in 19 countries and is known for its hyper-sexual advertising, which is all fine (to some extent), yet when we look at http://store.americanapparel.net/ and we seek and realise that you will not find anything over 2xl (in some cases no larger than XL), than this implies that American Apparel, as well as the bulk of the fashion store is ‘intentionally’ barring 74% of its possible clientele. Why should such stupidity be ‘rewarded’ with a Chapter 11? It is not like the people in charge considered the first 10 chapters, did they?

This now relates back to an article in the Guardian titled ‘Model who criticised agency: I spoke out about body shape to protect girls‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/oct/16/model-criticise-agency-spoke-out-body-shape-protect-girls), here we see the quote: “The model who used an open letter to criticise her former agency for allegedly sacking her because she was “too big” has said she spoke out so that youngsters were aware of the pressures in the industry to maintain unrealistic body shapes“, the subsequent quote “Caroline Nokes, who heads the all-party parliamentary group on body image, will lead the inquiry into whether the fashion industry is promoting unhealthy standards of beauty. It begins in November” is also cause for concern, but not for the reason you might think. I think that Caroline Nokes, Conservative for Romsey and Southampton North in Hampshire needs to take a seriously different look. You see, the ‘unhealthy standards of beauty‘ norm is a joke (in my humble opinion), what does it solve? By the time this all takes a gander towards anything serious we will be at least two administrations later. If there is truly a want and a need to make a change, than turn the transformation into a hammer people will not ignore.

Add to the restrictions of Bankruptcy, make the end date of an entry into the insolvency register 60 months, not 12. In addition, we add ‘unethical behaviour’ as a directive, so that debts caused through ‘unethical behaviour’ cannot be written off. Of course making a case for deciding to cater to 26% is unethical, which is a different issue and is still part of it all. Yet, consider that the need to cater changes, how can the fashion industry continue in its present firm when the catering part changes?

There is also an opposition from me towards this, you see, over-legislation is an equal evil. We believe in freedom of choice and as long as those persons accept the consequences and remain liable for the costs of what they did, they can do whatever they can. If someone wants to open a coffee shop just to cater to women, than they can. Oh no! They cannot, it is called discrimination. So how does this all fit? Well actually it does not! Shops can basically cater to the non-obese. They just ran out of stock, or they made ‘choices’ in their catalogue. Yet, in all this Caroline Nokes has a separate problem, until the view of what is ‘required’ utterly changes, she would end up talking up a storm to a collection of mugs without ears. Each holding a cup full of opinions and none replying to the actual situation. In all this a change is essential, but how to best go about it? As I see it, we can all have a business, we all make choices on what is the best course of business. Yet, when we go wrong, when our way was flawed, why should anyone else but us pay for our own mistake? Non-accountability has been at the axis of the law and legislation, especially corporate ones for too long. So we change that bit. If a business wants to exclude 74%, than that could be valid, it could be equally valid that some areas can never be supported, I understand that completely. Yet in all this, when we can state that it is more likely than not that a business could remain active if it had catered better to its possible customer base, than it should be regarded as an unethical business practice, as such the caterer should pay the price of unethicality. In all this a problem remains, how is catering to a specific group unethical?

If it is not, than can this person be labelled as unethical when the plan goes wrong? This remains an issue, as such there is little option for Caroline Nokes in this direction. In the end, segmentation is likely to safe businesses more often than not. So as such, what can we do to change this? There are as I stated two avenues. The first one is to stop enabling bad business sense. Of course you can engage in it, but if it falls on your face, the cost of that bad track will also fall in your lap and your lap only.

In the second (I still shiver for considering this) is to make a change to authorities like the financial services compensation scheme. That is a bit dodgier to address. As I see it, it is also not really a realistic path. In the end, is this just about me being unable to get a nice 3XL polo shirt?

The Guardian quote “Nokes said the industry is in a vicious circle, where agencies brought in young women to satisfy the designers, and designers made clothes “to fit the frame of a teenage boy” because those were the kinds of models that were available to them. “These are not clothes for women with busts and hips,” she added” only gets is a little bit into that direction, Another Guardian article, from August 27th (at http://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2015/aug/27/where-are-all-the-plus-size-male-models), shows the addition we need. Now, we must agree that any business has rights to do as it pleases (as long as no laws are broken). So when we see “I asked three major agencies in the UK, all of whom have plus-size female models on their books, and they all said they have no plans to sign plus-size male models“. There does not seem to be any wrongdoing here. You see, they cater to the need of their clients, so the brands have no need for people in the plus-size range. Yet, should we not wonder why these brands are not catering to the missed population of over 300 million in the western world alone? Perhaps the better question becomes in this day and age of commerce, profit and revenue, why is nobody going there? (Apart from the 2-3 that are).

The additional quote “One of the biggest plus-size retailers in the UK, Bigdudeclothing.co.uk, started three years ago. It recently received funding from William Currie Group which invested in Asos and has seen 100% growth in each year it’s been in business. Its clothes go up to 10XL but it struggles to find models who best represent the brand“. So it seems that some are looking at the table that seems to be just set for them, completely with a 7 course meal. I stumbled upon a part that could grow their business even more. Yet is all this, is the truth truly exposed? You see, when we go to a store, we see that sizes M up to 2XL are all priced the same, yet should we not recognise that a ‘2XL’ requires 40% more material than a size ‘S’, should we not recognise that the costs would be a factor and prices and budgets are a factor. I am not certain that the argument is completely valid, but the facts are important here, as should the deeper search in this matter be.

So is Caroline Nokes correct that the inquiry on ‘the fashion industry is promoting unhealthy standards of beauty‘? I find for a partial no, because there is a factor that is actually worse and going for the least incriminating fact is just wrong! There might be a case that the industry is pushing for unhealthy work environment and unhealthy living requirements, which is another slice of cake altogether. Here we make the final step. I am referring to a 2010 paper called ‘Employment arrangements, work conditions and health inequalities‘ by Johannes Siegrist, Joan Benach, Abigail McKnight and Peter Goldblatt in collaboration with Carles Muntaner. (at https://www.instituteofhealthequity.org/projects/employment-and-work-task-group-report/employment-and-work-task-group-full-report.pdf), so what happened to that paper, more important, why is it not getting a lot more exposure? The quote “First, specific employment and working conditions are associated with elevated risks of reduced physical and mental health, elevated sickness absence and disability pension risk. These conditions are found in the English workforce. Importantly, these associations are not confined to traditional occupational hazards and related occupational diseases and injuries, but include increased health risks attributable to insecure employment and an adverse psychosocial work environment” (page 41), I say that modelling is gets to move high up that list here.

So we have a need that is partially addressed, we have a group that is under protected and over exploited, in addition we see an ego based business continuing in its track. There is no real injustice from a legal point of view, but there is a growing inequality. We can think whatever we want regarding Charli Howard, yet there is a line under all this that is ignored. We (me inclusive) seem to mix emotion and cold facts. Toby Wiseman, editor of Men’s Health magazine phrases it perhaps best: “When discussing anorexia in fashion, the health argument sensibly prevails; when obesity comes into play, emotive arguments tend to take over”, this is part of the problem Caroline Nokes faces. This is not about my need for a 3XL polo and a nice pair of pants, there is an ego driven society that is starting to be more and more disabling towards the market they are not interested in.

Again, is this about me and my 3XL shirt? Perhaps it is just me and opening a ‘bigdude’ shop in Sydney is the beginning of my fortune. Apart from having a decent business sense, I have absolutely zero fashion sense (my work and university brothers can attest to that). In the end, it is the observation of a shortage and the fact that no one is acting on it. From the previous part we can see that apart from a bad sense of business, these fashion stores are catering to ego, which is not a crime, or wrong and as such, they should not be legislated against, no wrong is done.

This gets us to the last part in all this. Again, the outrage given is all emotional, when Katie Hopkins decided in her act of ‘fatshaming’, she did one thing the other ‘fatshamers’ never did. She gained 4 stones (28 Kg), only to prove she could lose it again. Of all places, this comes from the daily mail (I am now ignoring the foul taste in my mouth for mentioning them). The quote “Meanwhile, weight loss expert Steve Miller, who fronts TV show Fat Families, said Katie’s latest project shows a ‘shallow’ approach to weight loss and does not take into account the emotional mindset of those who struggle to lose weight“. I am not sure if I can agree with Steve Miller. At least Katie Hopkins is going that distance. Now, I will also consider that certain elements are ignored, but I will get to that. One quote that touches on this is “To try to define all those who are overweight as somehow lazy or lacking in will power does a huge disservice to the experts who have made tackling obesity their focus” (at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2740537/People-say-Youre-lucky-youre-skinny-Katie-Hopkins-piles-four-stone-overweight-people-fat-fault.html). Yet, there is something in the approach that Katie Hopkins takes. If she pulls it off, it means that sometimes we all need a harsh kick to our sizeable arses. I do believe her view is slightly too simplistic, yet in all this, there is also the issue with Steve Miller, some will see his view as exploitative. A long term ‘sandwich’ so to speak. I cannot vouch for his success of lack there off, but the less than 1% of the successes show a certain type. This does not make for his failure, but in equal measure it would not stop the success of Katie Hopkins. Perhaps they are two different sides of the same coin.

What started on a mere margin of fashion is now something larger, a mere supersized trip on a massive group of people (pun intended) where we see the shifting sands of enabling, the absence of enabling and the dangers if legislation gets too involved. The models might be on the other side of that equation. Yet when we try to visualise this (with http://www.bmivisualizer.com/), when we look at the BMI tool, set it to female and add the details of Charli Howard (173/50), we get a dangerous underweight. Now we get into the field that ‘Employment arrangements, work conditions and health inequalities‘ brings. People in this field are increasingly in danger of: Inhibited growth and development, fragile bones, a weakened immune system, anaemia and fertility issues. So, tell me, which model contract has been mentioning these dangers to the teenage working population? In addition, when we get her to the earliest healthy point, we see that 5Kg was all it takes, the other opposite of the scale tends to be well over 15Kg too much. The scales are more than unbalanced. Yet in all this, the official words of Caroline Nokes are not here. They were: “Legislation should be a last resort, but I’m conscious the fashion industry isn’t responding to calls for change, we would prefer a code of conduct, if we could feel confident it would be adhered to”, it is exactly the issues that I raised. On her site (http://carolinenokes.com/), additional information is found, the French position where models with an BMI under 18 are not allowed to work, the solution seems to work (check it with the BMI tool), even though the measure can be just under the bar, it is at all times minimal. If our lives are measured on health, perhaps starting with the limitation that only healthy models can participate, a change can begin that others will see a shift towards the leaner side of life. Whether the approach of Katie Hopkins holds any water remains to be seen. If we believe her words, than she is now the new Jesus. Well, that works nicely for me, because Father Clayton and Bishop Terry know that I work for ‘the’ other side, so as I serve Morax, I would enjoy nailing her to the nearest cross I can find (any of the wooden support beams of St. Pauls will do). Our heavenly father will forgive me, because that is what he does. How did religion get into this? Simple, you and me we must live through faith, in most cases merely the faith in ourselves (as my exams are showing me harshly) is the number one act that makes for change, in addition, we need to have a sense of humour, if you doubt that, than ask the guards at the Vatican whom I told I was ordered by the Bishop of Rome to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel White. As a true follower of the Cheshire cat, it seemed, in contrast to the queen of hearts that something needed to be painted, I decided a ceiling to be white. Let’s face it, after 510 years the IP of Michelangelo has lapsed, time for something new!

If you wonder now, why this step? Consider that the figure of absolutely not skinny was all the rage in 1500, so as we now find that part to be too offensive, let’s do away with all positive images that the Rubenesque age gave us. I will let you figure out the final puzzle that I left intertwined within the religious references.

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