There’s been so much body positivity in the news over the past year that it would be easy to think we were winning the battle to bring diversity into modelling. A look around the news on any given week seemed to indicate another successful campaign. It seems reasonable to think that we’d really made our voices heard.
Then you look at the coverage of New York Fashion Week and you’re like, did they not get the memo? Where’s the diversity at? It’s rail-thin girl after rail-thin girl.
Some of it’s probably got to do with living in a social media echo chamber, where we tend to be friend with people who agree with us, and we just assumed that everybody else was as on board with body diversity as us.
But more than that: We may be convinced. We may be making a lot of noise about it, we may be a majority, and we may be making progress in some areas.
But the industry clearly isn’t so convinced. There was a story in Cosmopolitan in February about model Julie Henderson. She’s appeared in campaigns for H&M and L’Oreal, and been featured in Italian Vogue. She’s also never walked a runway at Fashion Week, because she’s a “plus-size” model. This is what Julie Henderson looks like. That’s what NYFW considers too big.
It makes you wonder if Karl Lagerfeld’s line from a couple of years ago, that “no-one wants to see curvy girls on the runway”, is in fact the opinion of the rest of the industry, if almost nobody can be bothered to make sample sizes above US4.
It seems crazy that such an immensely talented and accomplished roster of designers don’t seem to have the interest or ability to create beautiful clothes for someone who doesn’t have a very skinny body shape, right?
We should be aware that this isn’t necessarily how it’s always been and always will be. 20 years ago the average model weighed 8% less than the average woman and today’s models weigh 23% less.
We should call it out. We should ask designers why they’re not using a more diverse range of models to showcase their beautiful clothes. We should ask them why there seems to be only one kind of beautiful that matters, and isn’t it weird that every brand seems to agree on that one kind of beautiful?
Applause for those that are making a difference: The inimitable Ashley Graham is, as usual, making waves. The Huffington Post are highlighting the people that are working to democratise Fashion Week with the hashtag #NYFW4ALL. And join in with Lane Bryant’s #PlusIsEqual campaign by tweeting at the same time as thousands of others on September 14th
Let’s make future Fashion Weeks more diverse!