For the first time in years, New York Fashion Week Spring 2022 felt like a celebration of curves. Designers like Christian Siriano and Laquan Smith paraded various models on the catwalks, as expected, but this was the first time that catwalk inclusivity seemed to be the rule, not the exception. Behind the scenes, for these models, the castings are starting to look like they finally have an open door policy for plus sizes. More opportunities equals more visibility, and that’s cause for celebration. Yet despite this, the job is still not done. In fact, for many – especially models that don’t fit the “palatable plus” body type – the inclusive fashion week umbrella hasn’t covered everything yet.
“Even though the industry has come this far in terms of representation… I don’t often find myself in physical situations where I am surrounded by more body types, abilities and identifications in the same room working for the same Mark, [and I did this season]”says Lauren Chan of JAG Models who worked for Christian Siriano and Peter Do.” I find it incredibly exciting because the energy is so promising; you can really see the progress we’ve made just by scanning a part at the New York Fashion Week these days.
While The Fashion Spot has yet to release its annual diversity report, a look at the collections showcased this season at NYFW shows one common thread: curves. Top names like Paloma Elsesser, Jill Kortleve and Precious Lee – who had a particularly stellar week, winning the Daily Front Row’s Breakthrough Model Award – of course worked. And new faces like Gwyn Moore (for Coach), Tatiana Williams (for Siriano and Markarian), Grace Brown (for Siriano and PatBO) and Devyn Garcia (for – get ready – Gabriela Hearst, Jason Wu, Brandon Maxwell, Studio 189 , Jonathan Simkhai, Altuzarra and Staud).
“One show can have three tall models, but they could have featured 40. And that’s important because as tall models we have more opportunities. And the public might not see this progress, ”Chan says. “I didn’t go to a single casting this year when I was the only plus size model or the only Asian model. Casting directors have been looking for new, tall faces, which is also relatively new and very exciting. “
Without a doubt, doors are opening. But how far has inclusiveness really gone?
Despite this obvious progress, many of the issues that NYFW has worked hard with remain. Molded curve models are often a similar construction: hourglass, chiseled features, and on the smaller end of the size spectrum. There’s more room for deviation, sure, but not enough to make casting for NYFW welcome to everyone just yet.
“I want to have a [real] turned, ”says Gia Love of BTWN Management, which closed the Chromat show this season. As a visibly tall black trans model, she has witnessed how the performative inclusiveness of this industry can only handle one marginalized identity at a time, if it does. “I don’t mind going there and not having it, but at least I want to have a chance.”
Love explains that designers usually have a specific type of model in mind for prefabrication, limiting this available opportunity to a small subset of the curve market. There is no place for someone like Love – who does not belong to the “palatable plus” body type – to show off and show off. On the contrary, attending unsolicited open castings is a waste when designers already have specific girls in mind.
“Fairness isn’t just about having one person on stage, it’s about meeting the needs of the clients you serve,” she says. “I think a lot of people are unintentional about inclusion for the greater good of humanity and society, and the quality of life and well-being of the people who are to be represented.”
Rather than prioritizing true inclusiveness, Love and many models like her feel that designers continually use a token diversity hiring to appease viewers and meet new industry standards, where a non-casting inclusive will be called. It doesn’t do much to push the needle and, on the other hand, hurts models like Love, who are continually left out of the conversation, even from designers who claim to “love” inclusivity.
Lynley Eilers of True Model Management agrees. At the start of the week, she was thrilled to hear that she would be performing at her first NYFW show. This excitement was quickly crushed by the sensation felt the first time she tried it on.
“Words cannot describe the eyes on me in a room crowded with ‘typical’ models and fashion people,” she said, remembering the questioning looks around her as she walked into the room and looked at her. explained that she was also a model. “These girls were looking at me so confused, the people who worked on the show too, so confused about what I was doing there.”
At 5’4, Eilers is already at a disadvantage when it comes to booking fashion week gigs. Visibly add a plus size on top of that, and her chances are almost nil. This is why this moment meant so much to the young model and why her treatment behind the scenes was so deep.
She adds, “It makes me feel so crippled.”
It is impossible to measure overall progress as each model experience within the industry varies greatly. Chan, for example, has felt completely embraced this season, especially after talking about her pandemic weight gain.
“Over the past year and a half, like a lot of women, like a lot of people in this country, I have gained a lot of weight. And I was really surprised and happy to find that it didn’t affect how I felt about participating in Fashion Week, ”she says. “It was incredibly heartwarming to walk into my facility and ask the team to add two inches here and there without more than a quick comment and an edit.”
She adds: “This is what happened during my Christian Siriano fitting: we added two inches to the waist of my pants. And I love Christian because he would never, ever make anyone think that was a problem, and what he stands for is making amazing clothes for everyone.
Fashion Week has yet to be celebrated all; There is an endless amount of work to be done. Yet behind the scenes, in the castings and in the conversations, a dialogue sets in, a dialogue that has allowed a new generation of fresh and curvy faces to join the group. Almost all of NYFW’s top designers this season using at least one curvy girl is, for some, the bare minimum. However, this is more than what has ever been accomplished before. It is progress, real and tangible, and it marks a new sign of the times.
The industry is changing. And the momentum is finally back.