NEW YORK, United States — Why is the fashion industry ignoring the plus-size market? The short answer is: it’s not. I’m seeing tremendous change and more inclusion of diverse sizes across the industry, and as it embraces more fresh perspectives, there’s nowhere to go but up.
Are we at a point where everyone in this multi-billion dollar industry is embracing all shapes and sizes? Not yet. But we’re making progress.
Curvy models are blazing a trail. Ashley Graham became one of this year’s most talked about models following her appearance in an advertorial for plus-size swimsuit line Swimsuits For All in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue. Model Tara Lynn created a capsule collection with La Redoute for all shapes and sizes.
Anna Wintour, Franca Sozzani and Alexander Schulman have all welcomed a new look in fashion, featuring curvy models in some of the industry’s most important publications. Pioneers such as Riccardo Tisci, Stephen Gan, Rick Owens, Carine Roitfeld and Katie Grand also celebrate non-traditional models, and Steven Meisel’s 2011 Italian Vogue cover featuring voluptuous women has since become an iconic photo shoot.
Brands and designers are also expanding the dialogue on beauty. I stopped dead in my tracks at the Brooklyn Museum’s Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition last year. Gaultier was sending curvaceous models down his runways more than a decade ago — he designs for and is inspired by the woman, not her size.
On a recent trip to Barcelona, I was delighted to see that Mango has expanded its offerings. And Lane Bryant, one of the most established ‘go-to’ brands for diverse sizing, has taken bold steps to celebrate all shapes in a provocative new marketing campaign for its lingerie line. Consumers are demanding fashion that reflects who they are, and the industry is responding.
We’re seeing change in other industries, too. Singer Meghan Trainor’s global hit celebrated “bringing booty back” and encouraged women to simply be themselves. The video for Colbie Caillat's song “Try” featured women stripping off their makeup and freeing themselves of the constraints of being perfect. There is something in the air — a movement to be the individual you are meant to be — and the fashion industry has the opportunity to inspire and lead this change.
Some of the most memorable experiences from my career in the modelling world have been helping my clients break down barriers and blaze new trails on issues such as size. I would gladly march and protest for change, but having the ability to affect the industry from the inside is key. True change comes from within.
At IMG Models, we are furthering the conversation around true, diverse beauty. Last year, we welcomed Ashley Graham, Danielle Redman, Inga Eiriksdottir, Julie Henderson, and Marquita Pring to IMG Models’ main board, where they joined Tara Lynn. We treat each of these women as an individual, rather than a separate plus-size division, which has opened the door to major opportunities with editors, casting directors and brands.
We represent models ranging from sample size to plus size, from juniors to octogenarians, and everything in between. It’s our job to find opportunities that are right for each of them and to offer the fashion industry a truly diverse pool of talent.
Finally, it’s important to acknowledge the work of Bethann Hardison, who has been a leader in the conversation on racial diversity in the modelling business. I believe that same type of introspection is now happening with sizing. Speaking with industry peers, I’ve suggested having models of various sizes walk in runway shows. I want to see what the designs look like in a sample size, as well as a size 4, 8, 12 and 20. I want to see a fashion show that features diverse models of all sizes. And I firmly believe that consumers do as well.
We have made significant strides, but getting the entire industry on board will just take time.
We must keep at it.
The views expressed in Op-Ed pieces are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Business of Fashion.
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