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Body Beautiful: Diversity on the Catwalk

Wednesday 8 May, 2019

An exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland will examine how today’s fashion industry is challenging perceptions and championing alternative ideals of beauty on the catwalk, in advertising, editorial and behind the camera.


An exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland will examine how today’s fashion industry is challenging perceptions and championing alternative ideals of beauty on the catwalk, in advertising, editorial and behind the camera.

The first exhibition of its kind in the world, Body Beautiful: Diversity on the Catwalk will explore how fashion creatives are embracing inclusivity and body positivity by exploring five key themes: size; gender; age; race and disability. Visitors will learn how the industry is calling into question existing practice, and why it must address diversity from the inside out to reappraise contemporary ideals of beauty.

Recent seasons have seen the most racially diverse, size diverse and gender-inclusive fashion shows in history, with brands like New York’s Chromat leading the way. In London, Teatum Jones chose not to stage a runway show at all for its spring/summer 2019 Round Table not Runway presentation, and instead brought fashion leaders and activists together for a discussion on the industry’s responsibility to better reflect society.

Sponsored by Edinburgh St James and supported by Arts & Business Scotland through its Culture & Business Fund Scotland, the exhibition will champion the people, designs, and voices influencing positive body image and inclusivity, presenting key looks that show pivotal developments in contemporary fashion. On display will be catwalk ensembles from designers including Ferragamo, Pam Hogg, Ashish and Jean Paul Gaultier, brought to life through film, photography and fashion publications. 

Highlights include a camel coat and matching hijab from Max Mara’s AW17 collection which were worn on the catwalk by Somali-American model Halima Aden. She was the first hijab-wearing model to walk the international high-fashion catwalks.

Also on display will be a bustier from Chromat’s SS15 collection. The piece was modelled by Denise Bidot, who made history as the first plus-size model to open a straight-size show at New York Fashion Week.

When Belgian designer Dries Van Noten showcased his 100th collection in March 2017, he staged a reunion of 54 models of all ages who have walked for him from 1993 onwards. A look from this collection will be on show, contextualised by original catwalk imagery, provided by pioneering fashion photographer Chris Moore, who is still working at the age of 85. 

Interviews will capture the different perspectives of key influencers in the industry, from casting directors and models to stylists, editors, educators and advocates. The work of noted fashion photographers - including Nick Knight, Emma Summerton and Amos Mac - will be displayed alongside audiovisuals from designers FTL Moda and Teatum Jones, fashion showcase Fashion Scout and other independent film makers. The exhibition will also draw on the work of students from Edinburgh College of Art’s Diversity Network, incorporating the voices of the next generation of young designers.

In planning Body Beautiful, the exhibition team consulted an advisory panel of specialists to ensure that a broad range of voices and experts in the field of diversity inform the exhibition’s content and accompanying programming. These include fashion commentator Caryn Franklyn MBE; model Eunice Olumide MBE; academic and writer Sinéad Burke and activist, writer and public speaker Jamie Windust. Bespoke mannequins have been commissioned to reflect the range of people represented in the exhibition, including two which were cast from life.

Georgina Ripley, Senior Curator of Modern & Contemporary Fashion & Textiles at National Museums Scotland said:

“Diversity has become a key talking point in the fashion world in recent years, and Body Beautiful will be the first exhibition to examine the various ways in which the industry is addressing body positivity. With more and more designers incorporating ideas around inclusivity into their work, attitudes are shifting, making this a particularly exciting time in fashion. The catwalk creations on display in this exhibition offer a refreshing counterpoint to historical, narrow ideals of beauty, and they demonstrate that diversity can be a consideration for everyone working in the fashion industry today.”

Rochelle Burgess, Associate Director for Edinburgh St James said:

We’re delighted to be a part of this exhibition that celebrates the rich tapestry of diverse voices and talent within the fashion industry and hope to collaborate again in the future with National Museums Scotland. Edinburgh St James will create a new fashion hub for the capital, providing a home for the brands that this city has been waiting for. From the start, we have sought to blend Edinburgh St James with the vibrant culture of the city and exhibitions like Body Beautiful perfectly encapsulate what this cosmopolitan capital is all about.”

Carl Watt, Head of Programmes at Arts & Business Scotland, said:

“We are proud to be match funding Edinburgh St James’ sponsorship of Body Beautiful through our Culture & Business Fund Scotland as it is a unique exhibition looking at the important issue of diversity in the fashion industry. It is heartening that businesses like Edinburgh St James are embracing and supporting cultural projects in Scotland which promote diversity and challenge audience perceptions. Their partnership with National Museums Scotland, and others like this, not only benefits the project that is receiving sponsorship, but also offers the business an opportunity for profile building and to positively associate itself with the cultural organisation producing the exhibition or event.”

Further information on exhibition and images from: Alice Wyllie, Press Office on 0131 247 4288 or email

Notes to editors

  1. National Museums Scotland is one of the leading museum groups in the UK and Europe and it looks after collections of national and international importance. The organisation provides loans, partnerships, research and training in Scotland and internationally. Our individual museums are the National Museum of Scotland, the National Museum of Flight, the National Museum of Rural Life and the National War Museum. The National Museums Collection Centre in Edinburgh houses conservation and research facilities as well as collections not currently on display.

Twitter: @NtlMuseumsScot


Instagram: @NationalMuseumsScotland

  1. The National Museum of Scotland is the most popular attraction in the country outside of London (source: Association of Leading Visitor Attractions). The National Museum of Scotland was awarded ‘Gold’ Level Green Tourism Visitor Attraction status in 2016.

  1. Located within a World Heritage site in the heart of the capital, Edinburgh St James will completely redefine mixed-use regeneration in the UK. Injecting over £1 billion of investment into the city, it will feature 850,000 sq ft of retail and leisure space, including 85 new shops, over 30 new restaurants, Edinburgh’s first Everyman Cinema, 152 apartments, a striking 12-storey hotel - W Edinburgh, a 75 room Roomzzz Aparthotel, and three new public squares. With its 24 hour leisure offering, Edinburgh St James is set to revolutionise and regenerate the city’s East End.

  1. The Culture & Business Fund Scotland is funded by the Scottish Government via Creative Scotland and managed by Arts & Business Scotland. The Fund offers match funding for business sponsorship of arts and heritage projects, matching that sponsorship, £ for £, from the value of £1,000 to £40,000. It aims to:

    1. encourage businesses to sponsor arts and heritage activity within Scotland for the first time;

    2. entice back businesses that have not sponsored the arts or heritage in Scotland within the previous two years.

    3. support arts and heritage organisations in building new business sector partnerships;

    4. attract non-Scottish based companies to sponsor arts and heritage activities in Scotland; and

    5. encourage businesses to sponsor arts and heritage activity within Scotland with a two and three year commitment.

A dedicated new website has been launched providing the opportunity to make online applications at

  1. Bheireadh Oifis nam Meadhanan eadar-theangachadh Gàidhlig den bhrath-naidheachd seachad do bhuidhinn mheadhanan bharantaichte. Cuiribh fios do dh'Oifis nam Meadhanan airson bruidhinn air cinn-latha freagarrach.

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Header image: © Amos Mac / @amosmac @theamosmac

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