How far have we really come with size diversity at fashion week?
Have you ever thought to yourself how fashion can make a movement? Well, this is something that has been on my mind since I started in the industry in 2014. Showcasing body inclusivity (opens in new tab) at fashion week (opens in new tab) goes far beyond availability—it allows individuals to be seen and feel represented.
Having representation in these circles is crucial for the genuine development and acceptance of all body types. Since 2016, we have seen a shift on the runway (opens in new tab) when it comes to body inclusivity, but how far have we really come?
As per Fashionista (opens in new tab), “right before the Covid-19 pandemic, plus-size representation at fashion week was beginning to see a drastic decrease.” The Fashion Spot reported that “the preceding season had a record-setting 86 plus-size model appearances across New York, London, Milan and Paris — but it went down to 46.”
For the Spring/Summer 2023 collections which debuted just last month, Tagwalk reports (opens in new tab) that across the four major fashion cities, 90 brands included curve models. This was a 45% increase from the season prior when 63 brands included curve models on the runway.
While there has been a slight increase in representation on the runway, the number of brands actually catering to a diverse range of bodies tells a very different story. As InStyle (opens in new tab) reports, of the 327 brands on the global fashion week schedule this season, only 9% offer clothing in a US size 20 (equivalent to a UK size 24) or above.
In order for the conversation to continue influencing more designers to provide a wider scope, we must first appreciate the designers who do show up and continue growing as leaders in the space. I believe the designers making a continuous stamp on the industry by championing size diversity deserve to be uplifted and supported.
Christian Siriano (opens in new tab) has paved the path for inclusivity since debuting his first collection. He told Fashionista (opens in new tab) about his inclusive frame of mind, “There are no rules anymore. Everybody just wants to make beautiful clothes, and that’s what I wanted to do. I just want to make pretty things.”
Tommy Hilfiger broke tradition this season featuring the first-ever male curve models on the runway. Hilfiger explained to Vogue Business (opens in new tab) the underlying strategy behind his choices. “When casting this year’s show, and shows past, we welcomed the opportunity to have diverse models, looking beyond age, gender, race, sexual orientation and size; and towards those who have been underrepresented.” He continued, “We believe that when we focus on authentically connecting with consumers, we move beyond tokenism, and it’s one more way that we welcome all to our brand.”
Additional brands, such as S.S.Daly, also followed suit by enlisting male curve models for their shows.
Models hold a huge place in movements made. They become muses for designers and help achieve a wider reach when connecting art to the consumer.
Supermodels like Ashley Graham (opens in new tab) led the way this season, walking for designers like Tommy Hilfiger, Hugo Boss, Matty Bovan and Balmain. Paloma Elsesser made her runway moments walking in 13 shows, including Marni, Michael Kors, Nensi Dojaka, 16 Arlington, Miaou and more. While Precious Lee lent her presence to powerhouse fashion brands including Versace and Fendi.
In an unexpected yet pleasant twist, Chanel also featured three curve models at their latest show.
With the global plus-size market valued at approximately $190 billion (opens in new tab) it begs the question, why are designers cutting off a wider range of fit?
Runway presence is admirable, however, the conversation must continue so that availability goes beyond the average size cap of a US 20. Fashion is a way of expressing ourselves in our most authentic form and my hope is that more designers recognise that there are people worldwide wanting to jump into trends and feel represented in all aspects of upcoming collections.