NYFW Briefing: Rachel Comey and 11 Honoré set the tone with diverse castings

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Though the onslaught of NYFW shows didn’t kick into high gear until today, it seems both Rachel Comey and 11 Honoré set the tone for the week beginning Wednesday.

Comey, back from a hiatus in Los Angeles, showcased a collection chock-full of statement coats, neon color and contrasting textures. Her swath of models — young, middle-aged (and older), multicultural and in an array of shapes (up to size 10) — played to her diverse customer. “It’s something that she has done since day one,” said makeup artist Romy Soleimani, who did the beauty backstage.

11 Honoré, the e-commerce site that caters to women sizes 10 to 20, emphasized a similar point of view. Curve models Candice Huffine and Precious Lee traipsed the runway along with transgender actress Laverne Cox.

For its part, New York Fashion Week operator IMG has been increasingly focused on what its role should be. On Thursday, its opening Talks series featured Huffine, Soleimani, fashion designers LaQuan Smith and Rebecca Minkoff, Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Lindsay Peoples Wagner and Zanna Roberts Rassi, co-founder of Milk Makeup and E! correspondent. The topic at hand? Inclusion.

“I don’t stand alone in the way that I feel,” said Huffine. “I have issues [with] not feeling represented and welcomed and seen, and I’ve been in this industry for 18 years trying to wave the flag and say, ‘Hey, hey, hey, I belong here.’”

During the New York Fashion Week spring 2019 season in September, however, The Fashion Spot found that racial diversity reached an all-time high: It found that 49 percent of runway castings were models of color, but plus models accounted for only about 2 percent (also a record number) and models over 50 were less than 1 percent. Clearly, there is significant work to be done for fall 2019.

Mina White, director of IMG Models, said, “If a woman feels more included in the conversation, she’s going to want to follow the brand and come into your stores again and shop with you.”  Ivan Bart, president of IMG Models and IMG Fashion Properties, agreed. “By not embracing all types of women in castings, brands stand to leave money on the table.”

In particular, Bart has been promoting its curve models, especially, within its 44-person show package it’s sharing with fashion designers. White added that brands like Veronica Beard, showing on Monday, are taking steps to showcase more size inclusivity in their shows.

But of course, it’s not only about size and race, but representing all walks of life. At Collina Strada’s show today, designer Hillary Taymour sent a pregnant model down the runway and also a model carrying a small baby – yes, they were wearing coordinating Collina Strada ensembles.

“When you think about the change that’s happening in the industry, it’s still relatively new, so what’s happening behind the scenes is hard to sometimes estimate on the runway,” said White. “We are trying hard to shatter that glass ceiling and reimagine who designers are selling to and who they are marketing to. You can’t just pick one of everything and expect it to resonate.”

5 Questions With Noon By Noor designers Shaikha Noor Al Khalifa and Shaikha Haya Al Khalifa

What were you thinking about as you were designing for fall 2019?
Shaikha Noor: “We always search for ways to pay tribute to our home country and fuse elements from the East with West. For this season in particular, we found inspiration in the stunning stripes of light and shadow seen across Bahrain’s large stretches of sand.”

How does that come to life in the clothes themselves?
Shaikha Haya Al Khalifa: “We took things out of context and experimented with color blocking, curvy shapes and sharp lines resembling the scenery.”

Since your last pre-fall collection, Noon By Noor has taken a decidedly more minimal feel. How is that similar to what we saw today?
Shaikha Noor: “We try to blend simplicity and modernity with colors, layers and cuts. It’s a common thread that runs through every collection and is essential to capturing our look.”

You recently celebrated a decade in business, how are you preparing for the next 10 years?
Shaikha Haya Al Khalifa:We plan to continue expanding internationally and grow our online presence. We’ve just ventured into children’s, which is incredibly exciting.”

What are your plans after today’s show?
Shaikha Noor: “We’ll celebrate with a low-key dinner and pick up where we last stopped on the next collection as soon as tomorrow. It’s non-stop, but we’re always driven by inspiration, which pushes us to work even harder for next season.”

Another theme shaping up this week speaks to the times: Fashion’s increasing interest in sustainability.

With the help of environmental activist and hip-hop artist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Collina Strada’s Taymour pledged to feature 75 percent deadstock fabric in her collections, switch to biodegradable packaging, host a clothing swap twice a year and donate to a climate change fund. The question at hand: How will customers make a difference?

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