Charli Howard is launching a new podcast about the issues facing the fashion industry, from sustainability to diversity.
At a crucial time in the industry in terms of eco-fashion, the post-#MeToo movement era and representation across all races and body types, the BBC podcast Fashion Fix could not come at a better time.
But who is Charli, and what else do you need to know about the new broadcast?
Who is Charli Howard?
She’s a model, author and activist with a sizeable social media following, with 189,000 followers on Instagram.
Charli has appeared in magazines including British Vogue (in Edward Enninful’s first issue as editor, no less), Glamour, Allure and Observer Magazine, and has become somewhat of a spokeswoman on all matters body positivity, body acceptance in the fashion industry and fat-shaming.
She has modelled for the likes of Pat McGrath and Maybelline, and earlier this year she became the face of lingerie brand Agent Provocateur, and she has also written two books – a novel about bullying, and her memoir Misfit, which detailed her battles with eating disorders and her struggles to fit in with others in her youth.
Why do I recognise her?
Having spent years trying to break into modelling, and being rejected for her size – all the while battling an eating disorder – Charli went viral in 2015 when she posted an open letter on Facebook to the modelling agency who dropped her for being too big at a UK size 6-8.
She wrote: “Here’s a big F*** YOU to my (now ex) model agency, for saying that at 5ft 8in tall and a UK size 6-8 , I’m ‘too big’ and ‘out of shape’ to work in the fashion industry.
“I will no longer allow you to dictate to me what’s wrong with my looks and what I need to change in order to be ‘beautiful’ (like losing one f***ing inch off my hips), in the hope it might force you to find me work.
“I refuse to feel ashamed and upset on a daily basis for not meeting your ridiculous, unattainable beauty standards. The more you force us to lose weight and be small, the more designers have to make clothes to fit our sizes, and the more young girls are being made ill.
“It’s no longer an image I choose to represent. If an agency wishes to represent me for myself, my body & the WOMAN I’ve become, give me a call. Until then, I’m off to Nando’s.”
Following the post – and an outpouring of support – Charli was swiftly signed by New York agency Muse.
What is her new podcast about?
The Fashion Fix podcast from the BBC will cover issues facing the fashion industry today, such as body image, diversity and its impact on the environment.
Charli will “unpick the complexities” of the fashion world as she talks to “game-changing” influencers and activists in each episode.
Guests so far confirmed include Mariah Idrissi, one of the first models to wear a hijab in a mainstream fashion campaign, and Russian model Kristina Romanova, the co-founder of the digital support network Humans of Fashion for models who have faced harassment in the industry.
Charli told the PA news agency: “It really is about educating people in how to be more conscious in their choices, in fashion choices, and it explores all of these different areas of the fashion industry.
“People trying to make street wear more sustainable, the first hijab model, diversity, sustainability… it’s just really about educating people in a fun way.”
She added: “We’re in 2019 now and it’s important people see themselves represented. We live in a time where people want to know where their clothes are made and where they come from.
“Also the earth is really being pushed to breaking point, we’ve got tonnes of landfills filled up to the brink, full of clothes and things that can’t be recycled and it’s just about being conscious.”
What has Charli said about her own body confidence and her journey to get to where she is now?
Charli said that speaking out about the injustices in the industry around body shape and size four years ago “was a turning point” for her.
She said: “I realised that I had spent my life trying to fit what someone else’s idea of what beautiful is… and it does take a lot of people to come together and say actually, we are kind of done with this. People really made a stand and said we don’t want to live like this anymore.
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Eating disorders are no joke – you feel lonely, isolated, afraid and sad. I struggled with anorexia and bulimia from the age of 12; I only got better when I sought help age 24. On the left, I was living on a couple of squares of chocolate and an apple a day. I had given up tea because I was terrified that the “one calorie” in it (according to Google) would make me balloon in weight overnight. I deleted and re-uploaded that photo a few times because I was worried people (mainly my French agency at the time) would see the armpit bit or hips as “fat”. What’s worse is that the French agency told me that if I lost another inch, I’d be “parfait” (perfect). My skin was bad, my periods were awol (if they came), I had NO social life because I was terrified of any situation where food or drink could be involved. My mind was just numbers, numbers, numbers, like some sort of Rainman. I don’t know if eating disorders ever truly go away, because through times of stress, there is a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that being smaller will help my problems go away – I suppose like any kind of addiction. The good thing is that with help, you can learn to cope with it and realise that thinness won’t equate to happiness, and learn that the feeling will pass. I’ve written about my problems in my book ‘Misfit’ if anyone wants to understand more about eating disorders (not an ad, I promise!!!) but to anyone struggling, help is available. You just have to want it. ❤️ #recovery
“I don’t know what he current rate of eating disorders is, I think that there are still a lot of body image problems for young people but places like Instagram and the body positive moment are helping girls feel more comfortable in their own skin.”
Her advice for helping keep yourself sane in a world that revolves around body image?
“Surround yourself with people that make you feel good, unfollow people that don’t make you feel good, follow people that just make you feel inspired who perhaps don’t look like you,” Charli said.
“And if you’re really worried about labels on clothes, just cut them out!”
– The Fashion Fix podcast is available now on BBC Sounds.