Although they have traditionally been at the forefront of advocating for size diversity, the city’s designers this season chose to use notably fewer “curve” models.
There are several explanations for why the transition took place. Some see it as a sign of a bigger societal change, wherein celebrities talking about their slimmer figures and the rise in popularity of diet pills can make it seem as though the past 10 years of the body-positive message never happened. Some point to variables that are more industry-specific, such a rise in the casting of mid-sized (size 8–10) models who may have filled roles once occupied by their plus-size counterparts.
Enthusiasm Burdens the Models
Only a few hours have passed since the official start of New York Fashion Week, and model Georgina Burke looks unenthused about the days to come. Burke, a curve model with 13 years of experience who is contracted to IMG Models, explained that her reluctance was caused by the fact that brands normally only reserve a few number of spaces for models like her, and that this season, those opportunities were even more scarce than usual.
They provide plus-size women with single or two outfits. Burke, a curved and mid-size model who walked in the Veronica Beard show on Tuesday night, added: “And we frequently can’t buy the clothing from the designer at all.” Burke assured her that she could get the camel trench she wore while walking along the runway.
For the past five years, plus-size models, who are often classified as having clothes sizes 14 and larger, have become more common on the catwalk, but their relative absence in New York this past week sparked debate both offline and online.
Examining size inclusiveness during fashion week could feel like a pointless cycle. Plus-size models are generally underrepresented in the modelling industry, and those who are selected to walk the most prestigious catwalks typically adhere to the same voluptuous body ideals. Yet, this season began to successfully break through that barrier.
Last Year: Wave of Inclusivity
With the six plus-size models who walked the season before, 48 plus-size models walked the Spring/Summer 2022 runways at New York Fashion Week, which could seem like a step in the right direction. However, it’s only a matter of time, as the Spring 2020 season included the most models ever—68 more than the sample size. As larger-framed models have been forced to accept, designers’ interest in encouraging body diversity changes from season to season.
Fashion history was achieved in February when Paloma Elsesser and Jill Kortleve became the first plus-size models to ever walk for Fendi. In addition to new plus-size models like Alva Claire and Precious Lee who were added for the brand’s Spring 2022 collection and Versace partnership, the same two models also made an appearance on the brand’s runways this season.
Versace is a well-known illustration of a vintage designer label whose original ideals included appreciating and elevating the female form. Nevertheless, from the beginning, its clothing had been made for a specific type of woman—one who was thin, chiselled, and white. Consequently, some individuals believed that the forced parade of increasingly diverse model line-ups down the runways.
“Do I think these companies really understand what it means to be more inclusive? No. According to Tongan plus-size model Veronica Pome’e, a finalist in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Search, being more inclusive is just in style. Even plus-size models themselves find it difficult to know when to praise achievements and when to be critical of the industry’s shortcomings. Pome’e informs Editorialist that “the job that needs to be done” is far from being completed.
Runway representation and an increase in plus-size buyers’ interest are related. Yet, new styles at US and UK-based online retailers increased by 29% in the second half of 2022 compared to the same time in the previous year, according to Edited. Luxurious alternatives in sizes 2XL or higher are still unusual compared to mass outlets. According to Boujarwah, the curvy model reversals on the runway will probably result in a comparable shift in retail. This is the beginning of a downward slope, she declared. “If curve models don’t show the clothing, buyers won’t buy the full-size variety.”
Diversity and inclusion are not a fad; rather, they are the way that the industry as a whole should conduct itself moving forward.