Christian Siriano’s Saturday afternoon runway show, held at at the Grand Ballroom of The Plaza Hotel, highlighted the fact that the “Project Runway” alum is succeeding where so many of those in fashion are continuing to fail: He is working with all women in mind.
The designer debuted 52 looks — which, according to his show notes, were inspired by sand formations in Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park — on models who were plus-size, dark-skinned and (gasp) over 30. South Sudanese model Alek Wek wore two looks; Iskra Lawrence, who wears a size 12, made an appearance; and 32-year-old Karolina Kurkova closed the show.
Iskra Lawrence on the Christian Siriano fall 2017 runway
An estimated one-third of Siriano’s models were non-white, plus-size or both. While the lineup was not a mathematically accurate representation of the nation’s women, considering 67 percent are plus-size (according to the CDC), it came much closer than most.
“[Diversity] is a thing; a real thing,” Siriano said post-show. “That’s why it made sense that, on the runway, we had many cultures and women from all over the world, in all shapes and sizes — and still made the collection look beautiful. It’s easy to do — well not easy, but you can do it.”
Coincidentally, the show came just days after the debut of Vogue’s March cover, an attempt at championing diversity that misfired. The issue backs a “Modern American Woman” theme and a “No norm is the new norm” cover line, while the cover photo features just one plus-size model (the only one of the seven included models who is wearing all black and covering her thigh) and, as one reader on pointed out on Twitter, not “a single woman darker than a paper bag.”
Vogue is “democratizing fashion” by not including a single woman darker than a paper bag in an “inclusive” spread. pic.twitter.com/ein18za44p
— Evette Dionne (@freeblackgirl) February 8, 2017
So far this New York Fashion Week, which started on February 9 and runs through Wednesday, just a handful of designers have earned kudos for their non-exclusionary casting — Calvin Klein’s Raf Simons (whose debut collection for the label read like an ode to America) and Becca McCharen of Chromat (who also cast Lawrence) are among the few who have been cited.
Much like McCharen, Siriano has made featuring non-traditional fashion models a habit; rather than for one-off projects that could be considered publicity stunts, he hires models with a variety of looks for, well, everything. His pre-fall 2017 lookbook featured just two models, an African-American model alongside an older model with grey hair, and he sent five plus-size models down his spring 2017 runway — which, regardless of intentions, earned him much press.
Christian Siriano pre-fall 2017
“It’s a huge part of the business. It’s very important. I think you have to have it,” Siriano said, in regard to clothing beyond a size 8 or 10. “The customer is everything: She is all sizes, all shapes. And I think that was why we had to have it on the runway.”
During Saturday’s show, fans, the fashion community and the celebrities who watched from the front row (which included Alicia Silverstone, Alexa Chung and Juliette Lewis) rallied behind Siriano, showing their support for his choice of models on social media.
Christian Siriano’s statement on diversity of sizes and shades #NYFW pic.twitter.com/861vBAsvEV
— Vanessa Friedman (@VVFriedman) February 11, 2017
Curves rocking the runway @ Christian Siriano, f/w 2017. pic.twitter.com/H3ho1kyBK1
— kate. (@msbelenserrano) February 12, 2017
They also applauded a single slogan T-shirt, which he paired with a pink satin evening skirt toward the end of the show. Designed by Siriano’s husband, Brad Walsh, it read “People are people.” All proceeds from sales of the shirt will be donated to the ACLU.
(On the same note, at his show an hour later, Jonathan Simkhai handed out “Feminist AF” tees, which will be sold on his website and benefit Planned Parenthood.)
People are people, body positivity and political unity from Christian Siriano. pic.twitter.com/f5VT7KWIXq
— Hashim (@hashoooo) February 12, 2017
“People are people. That’s all it is. It’s very simple,” Siriano said. “I felt like we needed one, simple great statement, just to celebrate everybody. We’re all here, it’s fashion, it should be light, and just fun and beautiful.”
Outside of his models, Siriano’s selection of accessories drove the idea of the democratization of fashion: Each look was paired with affordable shoes from his collection for Payless.
“[Customers] are asking for more and more. That’s why this collection was a bit more diverse,” Siriano said. “We had a lot of variety, because we keep getting asked for more things, which is great and exciting.”