Today, showing models of all sizes on a catwalk is less of a novelty, displaying a size-16 style on the same rack as a size 2 isn’t unheard of, and dressing a plus-size woman in a dress from a fall 2017 collection is doable.
Much of the shift can be attributed to the work of a diehard group still leading the charge.
In 2015, bloggers Chastity Garner and Cece Olisa joined the movement for change by launching Curvy Con, an annual conference putting plus-size fashion front and center. It has grown from a half-day conference to an annual two-day event overtaking multiple floors of NYC’s Metropolitan Pavilion.
“There wasn’t anything like this for our niche,” Garner said, of the event’s inspiration and components, which she listed as: “shopping, panels and good programming.”
This year, the event moved from June to September to align with NYFW, and hosted its first runway show, featuring looks from title sponsor Dia & Co., an online styling service selling plus-size styles. According to the founder Nadia Boujarwah, the show plays into Dia & Co.’s “#movefashionforward” campaign, launched last fashion week through a full-page ad in the New York Times.
“It centers on three pillars: supplying, or making sure we are bringing the best product, with uncompromising fit, to our community; supporting, making sure the voices in our community have the full impact they can; and showing, obtaining the representation required to make these things the norm and not the exception,” Boujarwah said, before her show.
The runway featured two new private labels, plus the new plus-size label by designer Nanette Lepore and the launch of Girl With Curves, Dia & Co.’s new collaboration with influencer Tanesha Awasthi. Top plus-size models, including Marquita Pring, walked the runway, alongside influencers including Nia Jax and YouTube star Loey Lane.
In the panel that followed, insiders noted the many advancements in the space in recent years: Emme, a veteran plus-size model (she had walked in the Chromat show earlier the same day), reflected on getting courses in plus-size design implemented into Syracuse University’s fashion program and said she is working on a related “something” with FIT, to be announced later this year. Moderator Fern Mallis, founder of New York Fashion Week, referenced Ralph Pucci now making plus-size mannequins and Nordstrom’s move to size-inclusive clothing departments.
“This is not a trend,” said panelist and style consultant Stacy London, noting that 67 percent of women in the U.S. are plus-sized. “Money is always the door-opener, and brands can’t afford to not sell to this customer.”
Though NYFW has increasingly featured shows catered to plus-size shoppers – mass retailer Torrid was added to the mix this season, and Michael Costello moved to casting girls of all sizes — Garner and Olisa don’t see it as a threat.
“Curvy Con is a jolt to NYFW,” said Olisa. “We strike a balance between aspirational and attainable, and NYFW still feels aspirational and unattainable. Today, when you walk through our doors, you feel like you belong.”
A look from Christian Siriano’s spring 2018 runway collection (Image via vogue.com)
During this week’s New York Fashion Week, the expected designers have featured models wearing pieces beyond a size eight — Christian Siriano, Chromat’s Becca McCharen-Tran and Prabal Gurung included.
Leanne Marshall, who has also made a habit of diversifying her model lineup, said it doesn’t make sense not to: “Our world is diverse. Why wouldn’t I want to show my garments on a wide range of bodies? These are clothes for everybody,” she said backstage, prior to the start of her show.
However, at NYFW, designers like Marshall remain the exception.
During a recent event at Facebook’s headquarters, Gurung explained that it’s easier to concept a diverse runway than it is to pull one off. “The demand is not there” for curvy models, he’s often told when requesting increasingly diverse options from casting agents.
In 2014, models Marquita Pring, Ashley Graham, Danielle Redman, Julie Henderson and Inga Eiriksdottir formed ALDA (meaning “wave” in Icelandic) to change that. Centered on promoting size diversity, the group approached IMG Models, an agency lacking in diverse body types at the time, about signing on with the agency. All five girls signed contracts, under an ALDA-defined condition: They would be seamlessly incorporated onto the “main” model boards, rather than separated into a special section.
“That way, we were seen by everybody,” Pring said, during the panel discussion at Curvy Con.
“And you’re at the same pay scale,’” noted Emme. “It wasn’t like that 20 years ago.”
Pring verified her rates are on par with other models, and said she’s currently working nearly every day. “Doors are opening more and more, all the time,” she said. “It’s about time.”