All Walks Beyond the Catwalk exhibition

Tonight’s All Walks Beyond The Catwalk event at the National Portrait Gallery was a breath of fresh air.  The purpose of the evening was to explore fashion, beauty and diversity with a number of interactive exhibitions and an inspiring set of photographs by acclaimed photographer, Rankin.

Model Katie Parsons in Giles

Model Katie Parsons in Giles

Having been commissioned to create a set of work which represents a different type of beauty, Rankin photographed models ranging from 18-80 years old, of varying sizes and shapes, all dressed in spring/summer 11 collections.

The result: a wide and realistic representation of beauty.  The models were photographed in such an exquisite light, that each and every one of them exude confidence, with sparkling eyes and glowing skin.

As well as the exhibition, All Walks Beyond the Catwalk founders Erin O’Connor, Debra Bourne and Carolyn Franklin held a debate to discuss the idea of fashion as identity in the digital age.  Other interactive exhibitions included the ‘I am’ photo booth which explored the concept of image and identity, a fashion illustration masterclass, several sound installations and lastly, my personal favourite, ‘Imagine a Catwalk’.

Set to the backstage sounds of a chaotic catwalk show, members of the public could strut their stuff down the catwalk alongside one of Rankin’s models.  I was lucky enough to take a stroll with Valerie Pain, it was a delight to talk with such an elegant and accomplished woman as Valerie and she was just as beautiful in the flesh as in Rankin’s photograph.

As if all this wasn’t enough, an all female line up of DJs hit the decks with an empowering playlist from some of music’s most inspiring women, the bar served delicious cocktails and the champagne flowed.

The Head of Isabella Blow

The Head of Isabella Blow

On a slightly more sombre note, today is the one-year anniversary of the death of fashion legend Lee ‘Alexander’ McQueen and I felt it was fitting to mention a wonderful piece of art, dedicated to his muse Isabella Blow.  Created by artists Tom Noble and Sue Webster, ‘The Head of Isabella Blow’ is a striking and poignant memorial to a fashion icon.  A spotlight shines on what looks like a random selection of items; stuffed animals, one of Isabella’s Manolo Blahnik shoes, a discarded lipstick.

But on the wall behind, a shadow is cast and this meaningless ball of objects transforms into the profile of Isabella’s face.  The feathers and bird beaks become an ornate headpiece, similar to those she used to wear by Philip Treacy.  An interesting statement about life and death, beauty and horror, the likeness to Isabella was astounding and it really did take my breath away.

By Vanessa Woodgate

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