Style guru Caryn Franklin says the clothes industry must change its ideals and help empower more women to feel good about themselves. Alison Jones met her.
The women of Birmingham are used to having celebrity stylists dropping by to transform their lives through their wardrobes.
They all have their shock tactics, from the mammary manhandling of Trinny and Susannah to the strip-a-gran approach of Gok Wan, boosting self-esteem through nudity.
It is not an approach that Caryn Franklin is likely to be adopting in her How To Look Good stage show at the Pavilions next week,
“I am always amazed, having watched one programme with Gok where all the women agreed to go on bare-breasted.
“We never asked anybody to do that and nor would I do that today”.
We, of course, was The Clothes Show, the pioneering, Birmingham-made fashion series which can lay claim to having introduced the idea of the TV makeover.
Going to meet someone as fashion savvy as Caryn is enough to produce a minor clothes crisis, but she kindly compliments me on my choice of a bright orange dress (following this summer’s colour-blocking trend).
It a reaction she is used to.
“The thing I find most is if I am going somewhere people say ‘Oh, I didn’t know you were going to be here, I’d have made an effort’ or ‘You are going to tell me what I am wearing isn’t fashionable enough’, when actually I haven’t even noticed it because I am not that judgmental.
“I think there is a perception that I live and breathe trend detail so I would just like to say I don’t.”
Caryn is dressed in the fashion uniform of black but with a flare of feathered ruffles round the bottom of her long, sleeveless tunic top, her defiantly grey hair scraped back senorita style.
She is gladly out of step with the approach of more recent makeover shows where the subject is inevitably reduced to tears before, during and even after the process.
“Television now requires a lot more extremes. What we used to do was incredibly mild compared with makeovers that are now expected to involve some degree of surgery, some degree of invasive procedure, or some degree of unkindness where the person having it ends up an emotional wreck before she sees herself in the mirror.”
Although she says women have become increasingly “fashion literate” they are also questioning themselves more, intimidated by the constant critiquing in the media of what women wear and how well they wear it.
“There are so many value judgments about a woman’s appearance they have become traumatised, asking the question ‘Am I good enough to step out the door?’ When I was growing up there weren’t fashion juries saying whether you had done it right or wrong. Whether the little bit of extra weight you put on made you so hideous you shouldn’t go out the door. We could all be who we wanted to be.
“Now women have internalised that level of stealth bullying so it has become almost normal. They use it to speak to each other.`’
In her How to Look Good show Caryn will be offering style advice for women of all shapes and sizes, encouraging them to dress with confidence rather than feeling they are failing to measure up.