From unforgettable celebrity sightings (Hi Cardi B, Halle Bailey, Blackpink’s Jisoo, Lori Harvey) to the hottest street style moments, Paris Fashion Week has brought us so many great things. Not to mention the impeccably photographed runways featuring enviable looks that set the trends we’ll soon welcome into our spring wardrobes.
What was noticeably missing from the runway was the representation of different body types.
While we’ve seen everything from a ’60s comeback with party-ready Dior ensembles to a 2000s revival with low-rise jeans and mini Blumarine knit sweaters, what’s noticeably missing from the runway is the representation of different body types. We spotted Precious Lee in Lanvin and Balmain, Devin Garcia in Chloe, and Paloma Elscer in Chloe and Coburn, but these instances of plus-sized vision were few and far between, almost on the border of symbolic. Many of the most iconic shows (including Chanel’s reimagining of the ’90s, Louis Vuitton’s “big time package”, Prada’s continental scene, and Valentino’s takeover of Paris Street) have failed to raise the bar for squishy society. Equally damaging was the missed opportunity in honor of the late Israeli designer Albert Ibaz, with only one designer (Chloe) embracing a different body type.
Plus-size models like Ashley Graham and Tricia Campbell have always been advocates of size inclusivity, speaking openly about the realities of walking shows, sharing the blueprint for making clothes in bigger sizes, and amplifying powerful digital movements. This conversation isn’t new, so it’s frustrating to see designers continue to ignore the call. What kind of message does this send to the world?
In contrast, New York Fashion Week saw a slight uptick in size representation with 48 plus-size models (or four percent of total representatives) showing up, according to The Fashion Spot, a media company on a mission to change the face of fashion by advocating diversity and body positivity. The brand publishes an annual Diversity Report with engaging stats on representation.
As a black woman in fashion, I’m unimpressed by the progress we’ve made thus far. Just three years ago, the show’s organizer tried to stop me from entering somewhere because she couldn’t believe I wasn’t part of the cast. The idea of a black woman, at least sporting a designer look, as a guest at a prestigious fashion show seemed pretty fresh in 2018. The industry seems to be still waking up to racial diversity. The representation of people with disabilities or those who do not share a certain gender also lags behind.
The future looks even bleaker when you factor in the diversity of the teams behind the top brands. I’m not naive enough to think that a shift in external and internal representation will happen overnight, but small steps don’t feel like enough. We need diversity and inclusion to be at the forefront of Fashion Week, from executing collections to choosing models.
Although we still have a long way to go before celebrating the plus-size community in a meaningful way, let’s add to the momentum by amplifying this year’s runway wins.