Below we catch up with the hugely successful Louise O’Reilly, model and creative mind behind the hit body-positive blog, Style Me Curvy.
Tell us about the beginning of Style Me Curvy and how things took off for you?
Six years ago I began working as a curvy model, or a plus size model as it’s commonly known. At the beginning, I was lucky to get a lot of TV work, as there wasn’t the volume of girls then as there are now. Gradually, I started to receive emails from women all around the country asking me questions. From what I wore on a particular shoot, to if I really thought a dress I had worn on TV was comfortable. They seemed really fashion curious and were looking for an honest and size friendly response. So I decided to set up Style Me Curvy, a personal blog, talking about style which didn’t single anyone out. I wanted to have an online platform for women regardless of their size; whether they are a size 6 or a 28 or with petite to tall frames. I chose the word ‘curvy’ because you can be curvy at any size. It is something that can be inclusive, promoting diversity in a gentle way.
At first I really don’t think people understood what I was trying to do but visitors to the blog grew by the day, and in turn people in the media started to become curious. Now, it has surpassed all my expectations of it. People have responded really well!
We’d love to hear your thoughts on the news that Instagram have banned the hashtag #Curvy.
In terms of the #Curvy label being banned, I do think it was some what extremest. I’ve used the hashtag for a number of years myself both for modelling and of course it’s relevance to my blog ( Style Me Curvy). It’s a universal hashtag that millions of women identify with.
While I do see Instagrams perspective, that their users were violating terms and condition with pornographic images under various hashtags, which is never appropriate, there could have been more obvious avenues to solve their issue.
Users profile can be immediately removed or blocked by an Instagram team member as opposed to penalising other profiles who use the hashtag. The other issue is that banning the hashtag is just a simple quick fix- it’s not solving the problem. These kind of X-rated profiles will simply just move onto another kind of hashtag in no time at all, thus prolonging not truly solving their issue.
Tell us about your views on fashion and beauty diversity? Who do you think shouts the message well?
Within the fashion industry, various people have their own views on how it should run. For me, diversity is vital, both psychologically on how we view ourselves and also for the fashion ecosystem. While fashion is trend-led and ever-changing, advertising messages can be misleading from what one could potentially look like with a product, to what one should look like. This images portray unrealistic, unobtainable goals because inevitably we are all different, no two bodies are ever the same. It’s these very issues that I can’t help but care very much about, because we as consumers do not fit in a one size fits all purchasing capacity. For example showcasing a variation in age, size and ethnicity is really important. Marks & Spencers do this extremely well; for example their SS14 Campaign last year using Annie Lennox, Emma Thompson, Rita Ora and various other stars was one of my favourites to date. It was effective with or without their celebrity status. It was a beautiful, empowering, inclusive image for women
In the past five years we’ve gone through a system of categories within diversity, which has become another issue in itself – utilising words like ‘real women’ or comparing one body type with another. I don’t think that anyone should feel alienated by an industry to which they are the client and the consumer, who has helped make the brand a multi million powerhouse. It’s slowly making change, but not without the need to give gentle reminders to media in order to keep using a diverse range of models and body types.
We think it’s pretty powerful stuff, in your time blogging and advocating on the issue, what responses have you received from people you meet?
It has been quite an emotional experience if I’m honest. Never did I expect it to blow up to what it has become. At one level PHD and M.A students contact me regularly on diversity in fashion. Then there are daily Facebook messages and emails from readers, from small issues to “where can I find a great pair of skinny jeans?” to the more serious and emotional messages from women who hate their bodies and find it hard to get out of bed every day. When I was a teenager I was much heavier, and the fashion choices then were not what they are now. So I truly relate to that feeling of not knowing what someone my size should have wear for their shape and that feeling of feeling lost is something I would like to help people with. So if it means staying up to 3 am answering emails then so be it, if it makes a small, helpful difference to someone’s life.
How do you see the future? Do you think designers and brands can be mindful of all shapes and sizes?
I would like to see a lot of change for the future. I would hope to see sample sizes be more diverse, particularly targeting the design schools and colleges that educate future designers. It means it would create awareness from an early start of their career, which I firmly believe would move mountains.
In terms of print and online media, we need to see more of a push towards including various models from age, size and ethnicity. I would love more models that are non-celebrities utilized for beauty campaigns where the image is admired for what it is – that size doesn’t even come into the equation.
When it comes to catwalks shows and Fashion Weeks, I would one day hope to see the day where size 8, 10s, 12s, 14s and 16s could walk for a designer in a natural way without an issue being made. It was done for two seasons at New York Fashion Week at the Chromat show, and designer Mark Fast featured numerous curvy models in 2009 and 2010 at London Fashion Week. Last September, Evans, the plus size fashion brand, even had a London Fashion Week show themselves where they collaborated international designers to put curves on the catwalk which was incredible to see. Curvy models are beautiful and relevant. It takes just one of the cool kids to start a trend and the rest will follow.