NYFW: Change is Good for Plus Size Models, But Is it Enough?

NYFW: Change is Good for Plus Size Models, But Is it Enough?

23.09.2021 Off By manager_1

topless woman with black panty

New York Fashion Week Spring 2022 felt, for the first time in many years, like a celebration of curves. As expected, designers like Christian Siriano or Laquan Smith had diverse models on the runways. However, it was the first time that inclusivity seemed to be the norm and not an exception. Castings for these models are starting to feel less inclusive. There is reason to celebrate more opportunity. But, it’s not over.

Fashion week’s inclusive umbrella is still not sufficient to protect all models, especially those who don’t fit the “palatable plus”. Lauren Chan, of JAG Models, who walked for Christian Siriano as well as Peter Do, says that even though the industry is so diverse now, it doesn’t happen often. “I find this incredibly exciting because it is so promising. It’s easy to see the progress we’ve made by simply scanning a New York Fashion Week room these days.”

While The Fashion Spot has yet not released its annual diversity report, a glance at the NYFW collections this season shows one common theme: Curves. Paloma Elsesser and Jill Kortleve were among the top models who walked. Precious Lee, who won The Daily Front Row’s Breakthrough Model Award, had an exceptional week. Gwyn Moore (for Coach), Tatiana Williams, Grace Brown (for Siriano, Markarian), Devyn Garcia, Gabriela Hearst and Jason Wu, Brandon Maxwell and Studio 189, Jonathan Simkhai and Altuzarra were just a few of the new faces that walked.

A show may have three plus-sized models on it, but they could have had 40. This is important because plus-size models have more opportunities now. Chan admits that the public may not be able to see this progress. “I have not been to one casting this year in which I was the only Asian or plus-size model. Casting directors are always looking for plus-sized new faces. This is also a relatively new and exciting trend.”

There is no doubt that doors are being opened. But is inclusivity really that deep? Many of the same problems NYFW has struggled with despite this apparent progress remain. Casting Curve models often fits a similar body type: Hourglass, with chiseled features and at the smaller end. While there is plenty of room for variation, casting for NYFW is not yet possible.

Gia Love, of BTWN Management, said that she wanted a “real” shot after closing the Chromat show. She is a visible plus-size model who has seen firsthand the industry’s inability to accommodate one marginalized identity. Love says, “I don’t mind going and getting it, but at least I want to have a chance.” Love explained that designers often have a particular model type in mind before casting, which limits the available market to a select few. Love, who is not a “palatable plus” type, cannot show up to the casting call.

Unrequested open casting calls are a waste of time when designers have specific girls in mind. She says equity is more than having one person on the stage. It’s about serving the needs of your customers. “I believe that a lot people aren’t intentional about inclusion for the greater good and society and the quality life and wellbeing of those who need it,” she says. Love and other models feel like designers use token diversity hires to please spectators and conform to new industry norms where un-inclusive casting is called out. This doesn’t do much to move the needle.

On the other side, it hurts Love and others like her who are constantly left out of the discussion, even though designers claim they love inclusivity. Lynley Eilers, True Model Management, feels the same. She was delighted to hear that she would be participating in her first NYFW fashion show at the beginning of the week. The feeling of fitting her first garment quickly squelched that excitement. She recalls the astonishment she felt when she saw the entire room filled with ‘typical’ models and fashion professionals. Eilers, at 5’4, is already in a disadvantage when it come to booking gigs during fashion week. Eilers’ chances of booking fashion week gigs are reduced to almost zero when she is visibly plus-sized. This is why the moment was so important to her and the reason why her treatment behind-the scenes was so difficult. She says, “It makes it feel so invalidated.” It is impossible to measure progress because each model’s experience in the industry is different.

Chan felt completely accepted this season, particularly after she opened up about her weight problems. “Over the past year, I have gained considerable weight, just like many other women in this country,” Chan says. She says she was surprised and pleased to discover that “this didn’t impact how excited I was about fashion week. It was so comforting to be able to walk into my fittings and have the team add two inches here or there. Christian is a man I love because he never made anyone feel that this was an issue. He stands for making amazing clothes for everyone.”

Fashion week has yet not been celebrated. There’s so much more to do. Behind the scenes, castings and conversations reveal a dialog that allows for a new generation to join the ranks of curvy, fresh faces. Nearly every top designer at NYFW used at least one curve girl this season. It is still more than anything that has been done before. It’s progress, real and tangible, and it is a sign of the times. The industry is changing, but too slow.