Monday, 25 April 2016

Plus Size Fashion: Scarlett and Jo Photoshot and my thoughts on the general 'get them in for free' ethos

So, a little while ago, Scarlett and Jo advertised the fact that they were holding a competition to basically find a new few faces for their brand.  There has been a lot of negative chat about this from the #psbloggers on social networks, so I thought I'd give my views and a review of the day, which I must point out, for me personally, was generally a positive and fun experience.

The Press Release stated this:

"Plus-size clothing brand, Scarlett & Jo will host a world record photoshoot of over 100 plus-size women at Bankside, London Bridge on Saturday 23 April.  The brand, opened a Member’s Modelling Competition to 20,000 followers on Facebook, to find the faces of Scarlett & Jo, in association with Ms Curvaceous UK. In line with the brands ethos, to celebrate "All curvy women” all of the women will then be featured on the website, modelling the Scarlett & Jo brand. "

Essentially, this was always a PR/Marketing exercise - they get a ton of free models - 'real people' of all heights and from size 16 to 32, who would willingly travel to their offices in exchange for the experience of getting made up and shot in beautiful outfits. This was always pretty transparent - they invited everyone who entered - so whilst dressed up as a 'competition' it wasn't really. Yes they'd pick three faces at the end, but overall it was a mutual exchange of services.

As someone who has already been through this process (on a much tinier scale -they only needed three people for the Voodoo Vixen plus size launch and I was one of the three who won that competition) I kind of anticipated what would happen, and I knew what was involved.

Companies who want to save their pennies will get everything they can for as little as they can from women who are desperate to break into modelling. This has been covered already by Georgina. She sadly had a bad experience with Voodoo Vixen (VV).
I was lucky with VV. I loved my makeup. I enjoyed the shoot. I am not a model. I don't want to be a model, but I like to dabble now and again if I get the chance.
Can I just point out as well, that I'm not a 'blogger working for exposure'. I doubt many of the women there on Saturday were either. I do blog, but I'm not that interested in exposure. I did this for me, as a person.

I think I visited VV maybe four times for fittings and the shoot that I did, and I represented them twice at London Edge. It was enormous fun every time, I was paid travel and some expenses. I was fed, I was given free dresses and cardis. The aftershow parties were fantastic. I don't live that far away so it was no major hassle for me.
It was a glimpse into something else that I wouldn't want to be part of all of the time, but once in a while - yes why not. I was well aware that there were other models being paid to do what I was doing whilst I was being paid the wholesale cost of a couple of frocks, but it didn't bother me in the slightest. Its not my day job. Fashion is cutthroat and b*tchy. It just is. You are dropped like a hot potato as soon as you aren't required. I became more aware of this even in the short time I was exposed to it, but dipping your toe doesn't hurt really. Moving out of your comfort zone. Being made to feel beautiful when its entirely possibly that your entire life, you've felt that you aren't?

There's a whole lot of 'but you're worth more than some manky sarnies and a cupcake' posts out there. I'm not a fricking idiot. I don't need to be made to feel like one because I'm happy to give my time in exchange for nice photos and the chance to dress up and meet lovely new people. I know my worth and its entirely up to me how I choose to spend my time. Oh let me see:- day off in London getting made up, chatting, wearing a nice dress, lots of giggles and yes LOTs of queuing, vs taking the kids down the park again. I love my boys I do - but seriously - duh - its a no brainer. Again - I acknowledge that I live pretty close to London - it was only £17 for me to get there and takes an hour - so its not the same as flying in from Scotland for example. I might have a different view then.

Wearing the skirt I made to travel in (fabric by Cotton and Steel):

As there was a FB page set up for the ladies attending, I was able to find someone to travel down with. I didn't need a travelling companion, but I found one anyway. Holly is adorable and it was lovely to meet her. Sadly a lot of ladies dropped out before, or on the day, so what might have been five of us on the Peterorough line, was just two.

Holly and me: the Cambridgeshire contingent

When we arrived, after a slight bit of confusion at London Bridge wondering how to get to Colechurch house in spite of being given written instructions, we headed straight up to the 4th floor to register, then down to the 3rd for hair and makeup, and to join THE QUEUE. This was where we were to be camped out for the next two and a half hours. I didn't actually mind THE QUEUE. It wasn't organised well enough though, as we were all huddled up in the tiny corridor outside the lift. Someone could have moved the line in the other directions so that we were waiting in the offices instead. Claire was there just ahead of us which was nice (met Claire before at London Edge - she runs a plus size clothing shop) I also got chatting to quite a few ladies in this queue and it was great to meet them. Gifi* was present a lot of the time - chatting to ladies - he's passionate about what he does, and was also slightly irate with the queueing (only half the MUAs turned up - although since none of them were being paid, its no surprise that some of them couldn't be arsed. It did mean a huge amount of pressure on the ones that DID turn up though. And slightly slapdash makeup jobs because of the turnover they each had to achieve) I actually think that this is the area that they should have been prepared to pay for. I understand it would have been a big outlay, but they could have at least have offered a minimal fee to each MUA/HA as a token gesture. It would have made the day run a lot more smoothly had there been more than just 7 people working on over 100 women.


I thought my makeup was ok. We'd been told to put on a base, however she covered it up with more base. I felt a bit like a clown but I know you need more on for the cameras so I went with it. She left a few blobs of mascara over my eyelids which I couldn't get off. I had to re-do my eyebrows which had been powdered over. Add more eyeliner to try to hide the blobs. I also stuck on some eyelashes, but overall I was happy. I'd had my hair done the day before so she just pinned up the front.

Hair done day before:

After being made up

The MUA team hard at work

Another statement from the press release:

"Each of these ladies will be treated as a VIP for the day at the Scarlett & Jo head office in London Bridge for make-up and styling across two outfits. Taking part in production and lifestyle shots both individually and in groups and then finally a whole group shot over at Bankside, London Bridge for a photo-call at 1pm. Scarlett & Jo are sure to be ahead of the curve, making this the largest plus size photo-shoot organised worldwide."

So I think the first line was a little bit exaggerated. I did not feel like a 'VIP', but likewise I didn't feel like cattle either. I felt that they were trying hard, but lacking in staff and unable to cope with so many women even though they know we were coming.
There was food for us - the cafe down the road had been paid to give out free food and drinks. There were nibbles and bottled water all day. Sandwiches (nice ones actually - not at all manky) at lunchtime. We also got a goody bag - we all got a pair of leggings, and some nick nacks (nail polish, bath bombs, lip balm and the like) and a voucher for 50% off the range.

After makeup on the third floor, it was back to the 4th floor for first outfits. Although the team had organised two outfits specifically for each person, it was basically chaotic. People were swapping dresses around, therefore no-one was in the correct outfits. There was no-one policing it so it was bound to happen. My first outfit was a velvet fishtail number. Nothing I'd normally wear (I'm no hourglass) but I liked the idea of being uber-glam. Holly got an amazing gold number which everyone was in awe of. Time for a quick swig of water. Rigging on (underwear). Shoes on. Up to the 5th floor for first photo. And the NEXT QUEUE. Not nearly as long. Discovered this was where the Tall ladies were hidden.

The first photo was the stills. Front. Side. Back. Bam - done. Unfortunately my face developed a twitch which occurred whenever the camera was pointed at me. Hoping that it doesn't come across as a grimace!
It was also stiflingly hot up there with the lights. I'm impressed at the photographer and the assistants who were up there the entire day. It can't have been much fun at all.

Then back downstairs to the 4th floor for the video shoot. NO QUEUE!! This was slightly scarier. We had to do a slow 360 degree turn on the spot. Sounds ridiculously easy  - no? Honestly its not, especially when you aren't used to wearing high heels. Also, like a dancer, you're supposed to look at the camera as much as possible even when turning. Hmm. How is that going to look I wonder LOL.

So with that done, sarnies in my face, and a stagger down 5 floors to the basement, and into the street. Just along from the offices is a nightclub. Couldn't tell you which one. ANOTHER QUEUE and RAIN!! Huddled up with the ladies and waited for our location shot. Met more lovely ladies. This shoot was slightly more relaxed (still hot but not in a stuffy attic so not as bad) Photographer made us feel at ease.

After this it was back upstairs for the outdoor shoot. Unfortunately it was really fricking cold and none of us were wearing coats. I was pretty glad of a velvet dress at this point. We started out at the front of the building with the photographer on a ladder, but it became pretty clear he wouldn't get us all in, so it was back down the stairs to the back so he could take his photos from the stairs. Lots of the public were of course watching at this point!

After the outdoor photos, Gifi did a draw so a few girls won their dresses, and then back inside to start the whole process again.
To the 4th floor. I didn't like my 2nd dress - or rather the dress hung next to my picture - which wasn't the one I was supposed to have anyway. On scouring for another 16 (I'm an 18-20 - but not in S&J) I found a sweet ditsy black dress, so I chose to wear this as it suits my colouring. Stuck with the black shoes, and some hideously tight nude tights I got in the bargain bucket from Tesco. Then back to the 5th floor for QUEUEING. This time it was quite a biggy - I think I was waiting up there for about an hour. Met more lovely ladies up there though. I do like a good natter. Lots of chat about curvy convention, which I've never really fancied to be honest. When I did get up for my shots, it was a quicker session, and I was twitching again LOL.

I would have bought this dress, but it hasn't been released yet and this is just a sample. Bah!

Aaaaand back downstairs for Video shot. Small QUEUE. Met MORE gorgeous ladies for a natter. I don't think I've talked to so many different people in one day since, erm, ever actually. It was quick this time. Obviously the team are getting tired and bored. No location shoot as the nightclub was only available in the morning so that's it for me! Back to the 3rd floor to change of of outfit, and - blessed relief- into my flat sensible shoes. Cupcakes and prosecco in the kitchen (not too much prosecco as I drove to the station) and then farewells. Then Holly and I headed back to Kings Cross, pretty much knackered. I did of course find the time to stop off at Wasabi and get my sushi fix. There's always time for Wasabi.

For the boys :)

Overall, I had a great day. I knew what I was in for. There was more initial queuing than I'd hoped. I did NOT mind doing this for free and I can't wait to see the shots. Everyone involved worked very hard and whilst for some it was not the experience they'd hoped for, for me it was great. The highlight was meeting all these fabulous ladies and I'm so glad I was part of it.

*Gifi Fields has come from an extensive fashion background dating back to the 1960s  designing for the likes of Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Bloomingdales, Henri Bendalls, Saks, Lord & Taylor, Nordstrom, Au Printemps, Gallerie LaFayette and almost every mainstream European and  UK high-street retailer.  Fields was one of the original designers featured at Topshop, alongside Stirling Cooper, Jeff Banks, Quorum, French Connection and Miss Mouse. Fields was a co-founder of the British Fashion Council in 1983, and was somewhat of a legend in London’s West End Rag Trade with his notoriety still following him in some quarters. Fields has had successive nominations for British Fashion Awards in the 1990s and was known for inventing the ra-ra skirt. He now runs Scarlett & Jo in-house with his design team from his London Bridge Studios and headquarters.

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