From seeing memorable celebrities (High Cardi B, Haley Bailey, Jesus of Blackpink, and Laurie Harvey) to the most beautiful moments of street style, Paris Fashion Week has given us so much. Not to mention the highly photographed runways of vivid looks that set the trends that we will soon welcome into our spring outfits.
What was noticeably missing from the runway was the representation of different types of bodies.
While we’ve seen everything from Dior’s party-ready outfits in the 60s to Blumarine’s low-rise jeans and tiny cardigans to the y2K revival, what’s noticeably missing from the runway is a variety of body representations. We’ve seen Precious Lee in Lanvin and Balmain, Devin Garcia in Chloe, and Paloma Elsesser in Chloe and Copernicus, but these instances of plus-size visibility were rare and almost on the verge of tokenism. Many popular shows (including the Channel’s nineties remake, Louis Vuitton’s “Grand Ball of Time,” Prader’s Biccontinental Spectacle, and Valentino’s Paris Street Takeover) have failed to uplift the curved community. The opportunity to pay tribute to the late Israeli designer Albar Ibaz is also detrimental.
Plus-size models like Ashley Graham and Tricia Campbell have long advocated size inclusion, speaking openly about the reality of walking shows, sharing blueprints for making clothes larger, and broadening the powerful digital movement. This conversation is nothing new, so it’s frustrating for designers to continue to ignore the call. What kind of message does it send to the world?
In contrast, New York Fashion Week saw size presentations with 48 plus-size model appearances (or four percent of total casting), according to The Fashion Spot, a media company on a mission to change the look of fashion for diversity and body positivity. Publishes an annual diversity report with eye-opening statistics about brand representation.
As a black woman working in fashion, I am not impressed with the progress we have made so far. Just three years ago, an event organizer tried to stop me from entering a venue because he couldn’t believe I wasn’t part of the staff. The idea that a black woman, adorned with a designer look, could be a guest at a less prestigious fashion show in 2018 still seemed like a novelty. It seems that the industry is still waking up to ethnic diversity. Representation of persons with disabilities or those who do not subscribe to a particular gender also lags behind.
The future looks even darker when calculating the number of team variations behind the most prominent brands. I’m not stupid enough to think that changes in both external and internal presentation will happen overnight, but the baby’s steps don’t seem enough. We need diversity and inclusion to be at the forefront of Fashion Week, from the implementation of collections to the casting of models.
While we have a long way to go before the plus-size community can celebrate in a meaningful way, let’s speed up by increasing the scope of this year’s runway wins.