Skinny jeans from Topshop with Isabel Marant tops, maxi dresses from Ibiza paired with biker boots. The women marching through the revolving doors into the London office of Vogue, fashion bible to the planet, may be homogenous in their casually chic approach to clothes. But - curvy, skinny, trim and sometimes wobbly - they are far from uniform in shape.
No wonder, then, that in her plain white office, Alexandra Shulman, editor-in-chief of British Vogue since 1992, seems a little defensive as she prepares to tell me about the magazine's new schools initiative aimed at showing pupils what goes into a fashion shoot.
The lesson, which Shulman devised and launched last month in secondary schools throughout Britain, intends to encourage 13-year-old girls to explore their idea of beauty and to understand the astonishing amount of work that goes into producing a high-fashion image.
Comprised of a short film called It's a Look, narrated by model Jade Parfitt, the commentary aims to demystify the modelling process and make clear today's top models, such as Cara Delevingne and Natalia Vodianova, are not picked solely on looks but on character, confidence and the ability to work hard as part of a creative team.
Surprisingly, perhaps, the initiative has already come under attack, with critics accusing Vogue of "conveniently shirking the blame for a poisonous culture by telling us all what we knew already".
Indeed, any discussion of modelling always seems to come down to one thing: do magazines such as Vogue encourage or support a rise in eating disorders among girls?
Shulman is clear. "I am 100 per cent comfortable with what we do on Vogue. I am happy to say that I wish designers on the catwalk worked towards a larger body shape. We don't run diets or articles on cosmetic surgery in the magazine. We are not about making people feel insecure."
You can see her point. Shulman has been openly critical of the fad for using ever-thinner models and in 2009, accused designers of an "increasingly disturbing" practice of sending fashion magazines "minuscule" clothes for fashion shoots, which forced editors to hire models with "jutting bones and no breasts or hips".
Last year, Vogue editors worldwide signed up to the Healthy Model Initiative, pledging not to use under-16s, or those with eating disorders, and to be ambassadors for a "healthy body image".
"I have done all I can," says Shulman. "We didn't feel we had to launch the schools initiative. It's not about Vogue being to blame. It's meant to be a positive thing. I want it to be interesting and helpful."
So what is the lesson plan like? The film element will certainly fascinate teenage girls who love fashion. We follow quirky-looking model Drake Burnette backstage on a photoshoot used in the July issue of Vogue, seeing her pre-hair-and-make-up, and afterwards in full war paint. We meet the creative director, the fashion editor, the photographer and the bookings editor - a team of 20 are involved in the shoot. We even see collar bones softened, as nature makes them look too angular - reverse photo-shopping, in a way. Personally, I felt they were still a bit skeletal even after the retoucher had got to work, although Shulman and I had to agree to disagree on this.
The lesson plan discusses the notion of beauty, and makes it clear what percentage of grown women have average proportions (a size 10-14) - about 60 per cent. It isn't a neat, packaged answer to parental worries over teen obsession with appearance. And although targeted at pupils around Year 9 (aged between 12-14), I think it could have been aimed at younger girls. By 13, many will already have fixed ideas. But it's not a bad starting point for discussions in the classroom and, crucially, at home.
Not, of course, that it will stop some girls dreaming of becoming models. "Young girls probably think of the very successful ones - the Naomis and Kates - and I understand the appeal," says Shulman. "For the 20 top models in the world, life is pretty incredible. But for most, it's hard work, and the hardest thing to deal with is that if you are lucky you'll work until you are about 24. Then what do you do?
"For the past, say, eight years, you have been judged totally on how you look. I don't like the idea that so many young women want to be in a girl band, or be a model, to have a career based around their looks. It's a point for everyone: don't judge yourself - or put yourself in that position - by how you look. It makes you so vulnerable."
Shulman is keen to feature women inside Vogue whose achievements are not based on their looks, yet "who are still prepared to get dressed up for a picture", pointing out that even if you are a brain surgeon, "you are allowed to be interested in your appearance". And it's a tragedy, she says, "that women in politics are wary of wearing anything that makes them stand out".
Curiously though, the latest Vogue cover girl is Alexa Chung - a woman who is neither a member of the catwalk crew nor an obvious "achiever". Her CV seems to run: TV presenter, model, muse, whatever. I'm sure such a career path is not one that many parents would encourage their daughters to adopt - not least because it's hard to say exactly what she does. So why is she on the front?
"Alexa is clever; shrewd and funny and quick. She looks great, has individual style in a very fashion way, but is not conventionally sexy. And she writes well, too. She has a huge following among young women."
Shulman is spot on there - far more "ordinary" girls seem to want to look like the slightly androgynous Alexa than ache to resemble the giraffe-like Gisele Bundchen. The exaggerated Botox-ed "Barbie" look of fake breasts, fake tan, fake nails and fake hair seen on The Only Way Is Essex is undeniably the most popular look among young girls, but one that cannot be laid at the door of Vogue.
Shulman is encouraged, however, by the diversity of what young women aspire to, and points out that many have a body confidence (whatever their shape) that she didn't have at 15.
"Everybody wears shorts and minis now," she exclaims. "I would certainly have felt my legs were too chunky - even if they had been in fashion then."
You only have to watch the troupes of young women en route to a summer festival - most cheerfully displaying varying degrees of puppy fat - to agree. We must, as a nation, be doing something right.
"Some people are incredibly vulnerable and we understand more about eating disorders these days," says Shulman. "But I don't feel in the main that all young women suffer terrible issues about themselves."
Moreover, Shulman points out that our idea of beauty - certainly in terms of high fashion - is not much different from how it has always been.
"When we go through our archives, you realise it is a long time since there has been a radical change in what was considered beautiful, perhaps not since Victorian times. Being thin has been considered desirable since the 20s."
Slim or curvy, real beauty, believes Shulman, is linked to self-awareness.
"It comes with being comfortable with what you are - and others letting you be what you are." And that is a lesson to us all.
- The Telegraph