Analyzing size-inclusivity throughout fashion month can feel like a disappointing cycle. Often there are few plus-size models featured, and those who are cast to walk the most prestigious of runways typically fit the same curvy body ideals. This season, however, began to break that barrier in a promising way.
As opposed to years past, where runway representation hinged on a select few, including Ashley Graham and Paloma Elsesser, this September brought new faces to the forefront. More plus-size models made their NYFW debuts, helping to normalize a spectrum of size-inclusivity that previously felt out of reach.
There is, of course, a mountain of work to be moved. NYFW has only begun to scratch the surface on what true, authentic diversity feels like. But this season—with designers like Michael Kors, Laquan Smith, Gabriela Hearst, Maryam Nassirzadeh, Moschino, and more loosening the hems on who can and can’t walk the runway—felt like a breath of fresh air at what the future might hold.
Designers including Christian Siriano and Becca McCharen-Tran served curves as they always do—particularly McCharen-Tran's Chromat, which celebrated diversity on the runway in a way no major fashion week designer has ever been able to accomplish. But equally as exciting are the new faces emerging, the models of today and tomorrow who will soon be our favorite standouts season after season.
“It was truly a dream come true to be able to walk in my very first season, and also meet so many people I look up to in the industry,” says Gwyn Moore. “I appreciated the effort that casting directors, designers, and creative directors put into casting a diverse group that represents so much of this generation.”
Moore is represented by Muse Model Management—the same agency that reps runway favorite Jill Kortleve—who has boasted a range of fresh-faced curve models at fashion week, including Veronica Siblesz, Lo Visa, Charlie Reynolds, Ellyn Johnson, and Breanna Ivy. Also included in that group is Jocelyn Corona, who walked for both Siriano and Peter Do earlier this month.
“I take [this season] as a good sign that more than a few [designers] are open to being more inclusive,” Corona says. “I would love to see all sizes represented, not only two models with different sizing. But for sure it’s better than a few years ago.”
Beside Corona at the Siriano spectacle was Tatiana Williams, another Muse girl, who shined in a bright green suit by the popular size-inclusive designer.
“I think an inclusive fashion week means to have everyone of every size and race included in the shows so everyone can get a chance,” Williams says.
That Siriano show—which took place right at the start of New York Fashion Week—introduced many faces that would be well-seen in the days to come. It was the joyous kickoff we needed to what would be one of the most inclusive fashion weeks in seasons.
Among those faces is Grace Brown of One Management.
“To actually break through and be one of those new girls that he's now introducing... I was so happy to walk for him,” Brown tells Byrdie. “And even the backstage environment of just the girls he does gather and he does book, the energy was through the roof.”
Brown’s week continued with appearances in the shows of PatBO, Christian Cowan, and the Revolve gallery. She notes, however, that while inclusivity may be on the rise this September, many of the same issues plus-size models face still remain, silenced to quiet corners and conversations.
“The way people just count you out because you're a bigger girl, and they feel as if you don't deserve [to be here] or you're not worthy of being in the same room as them,” she says.
It’s important to recognize that while celebrating progress is an important step toward continuing the momentum, centering conversations around the challenging aspects that still exist is crucial to causing long-lasting change. Brown’s exciting season at NYFW was met, on the flip side, with difficult-to-handle moments behind the scenes.
Like many plus-size, Black models, Brown was met with judgmental looks, unusual treatment, cattiness, and unwelcoming environments. While runways may promote beauty, dressing rooms can hide hate.
“I can't let other people project their feelings and their insecurities onto me, and so I always show up for myself and put my best foot forward,” Brown says. “You have to just be mentally, physically, and spiritually prepared for whatever is about to come your way, whether that be during the shoot, from casting directors, models, designers.”
Don’t let the sprinkles of inclusivity deter you: Fashion week is still a broken system centered in exclusivity. And as those doors begin to creak open, letting in a new generation of trailblazers, the situations they face will often not meet the inclusivity standards a designer promotes from the outside.
While runways may promote beauty, dressing rooms can hide hate
There is work to be done. And there always will be, for years to come. That is what we cannot lose focus on. For Brown, she’s strutting towards the goal of working with Versace, Dior, LaQuan Smith, Jacquemus, Mugler, and Essence. And there’s little that will stand in her way.
“I hope that every single person that works around a show, from casting directors to models to production, gets to understand that you need to be a nice person to the people you are seeing or working with,” Corona says. “It’s not that hard. See them, listen to them.”
She continues, “As a Mexican, I want to make a statement that your size and your tanned skin is not something you should be ashamed of. And to see how young girls from everywhere are watching what I do—like my sisters—makes me feel good. It’s everything for me.”
These women are certainly not alone in the celebration this season. Other notable curve models on the runway included Devyn Garcia (DNA Models), Gia Love (BTWN Management), Lauren Chan (JAG Models), and Molly Constable (JAG Models).
Moore adds, “[This community] helps you feel like you belong, and it takes the edge off. Being surrounded by women that were extremely comfortable being themselves made me feel like I could do the same.”