September 19th 2023.
When I first saw Irina Shayk and others modelling black eyes on the catwalk as part of this year’s London Fashion Week, I felt a deep sense of shock. A black eye is not a fashion accessory. As CEO of a domestic abuse charity, I never expected to find myself needing to make this point.
It wasn’t just the black eyes on the models that disturbed me. The fact that Vogue and i-D described it as ‘tongue-in-cheek’ and ‘an exquisite car crash’, made me realise how normalised the idea of violence against women had become. It had become so normalised that many people failed to recognise the offensiveness of the images.
The Dash Charity works hard to break the cycle of domestic abuse, so people in our local communities can feel stronger and safer from abuse. We support hundreds of people every year. We spend time in primary and secondary schools, educating children and young people about healthy relationships and toxic or abusive behaviours. We see worrying ideas developing within peer groups about what’s acceptable in a relationship, and what’s not.
Sadly, it’s estimated that 160,000 children in England are currently living in households where domestic abuse is taking place. We need to talk about these issues, not glamourise them. We need to start conversations, and normalise challenging it when we see it.
I shudder to think what message these images on the catwalk are sending to teens. That it’s fashionable, aspirational, even desirable to be beaten and hurt at the hands of a partner. This is far from the truth; a black eye is not a designer handbag. A black eye is not empowering. A black eye represents the power and control in an abusive relationship.
It’s time for the fashion industry to take responsibility for their actions. Brands should consult charities like ours, or Women’s Aid, for advice before executing offensive and harmful shows in the name of creativity. If the fashion industry continues to turn a blind eye to abuse, confusing serious issues with entertainment, then it’s time to start challenging this normalisation.
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