“We would love for you to attend our fashion month show.”
Me: “Are you providing dressing options?”
“Nothing in your size, sadly, but we do have these really fun earrings!”
In 2019 this was a common conversation I had with most London Fashion Week shows. It became rather tedious and honestly quite offensive.
For many years, as a plus-size woman, I’d been made to feel grateful to even be invited to these fashion-month shows because, quite frankly, I didn’t have the acceptable “fashion-worthy body” that’s so prevalent in the fashion industry—even though I had nearly a decade’s worth of high-end fashion editorials, billboards, beauty campaigns, and articles under my name. My size was definitely still an issue. Plus-size models were definitely still an issue.
You could also see this from the lack of representation on the runways, especially in London. The place that gave birth to punk, the country that has seen decades of fashion trends, artists, and musicians influence the world with their flamboyance, creativity, and punk spirit, but not punk enough to allow bigger bodies to be involved.
That’s when I decided to boycott LFW. Until you include us in the shows, invite us to sit on the front row, and dress us, why should we support you?
Fast-forward to 2023, and we’ve been through a lot. Throughout the pandemic, mental health, well-being, self-love, and self-care have been at the center of our core conversations, alongside the real importance of diversity and inclusion. We’ve seen such a huge change from brands pushing the narrative of including bodies of all sizes across their social media pages, brand campaigns and messaging and ranges from Never Fully Dressed, Karen Millen, Ganni, Anthropologie, and Rixo extended to plus size, showing that they were listening to the current climate on inclusion. Surely that wasn’t just a trend, was it?
With that in mind, I expected big things from the fashion weeks last year. I threw myself back into the fashion week tornado to find out whether any brands actually lived up to that same big inclusive energy. I tracked all the appearances of models that were considered plus or curve during fashion month to see if any improvements had been made for inclusivity. Here’s what I learned.
NEW YORK FASHION WEEK
New York has always held the trophy for inclusion when it comes to size. Last season it was in the lead for putting curvier models on its catwalk, but this season it did a full 180 and is in third place out of the four fashion capitals.
With 75 designers on the schedule, averaging 40 models per show, that’s a total of 3,000 models. We’ve gone from 49 models considered curve or plus at NYFW last season to 31 this season.
I can’t help but feel the rise of the term which I believe has ultimately come from the influence of such famous celebrity bodies as the Kardashians getting their fat removed, has suddenly deemed it to now be on trend. The fact that we have people using bodies as trends is something that really upsets me. Has New York Fashion Week also been poisoned by this narrative? Is this why their lack of curvier bodies wasn’t seen over there this season?
Bodies are not trends; they are the vessel that keeps us all alive. Fashion can be on trend—and that’s why having so many different sizes on the catwalk is so, so important. Fashion Week is so influential, the designs trickle down to our high street where youth culture is inspired. Imagine the massive positive impact it could have, especially if all our bodies were seen and admired during fashion month?
Although New York went completely backward this year, thankfully London sped forward and did us proud.
LONDON FASHION WEEK
With more than 66 designers showing this season at LFW, there were around 2,640 looks paraded down the runway by models. Notably, 71 models this season were curve or plus-size with brands such as Sinead O’Dwyer, Karoline Vitto, Di Petsa, and Harris Reed leading the way.
Last season London had 45 curve or plus models, so this is the biggest increase in size diversity, which means London is in first place for body inclusivity this season.
MILAN FASHION WEEK
There were more than 60 designers showing collections this season. With an average of 40 looks each, that means around 2,400 models were cast to walk the runway. Milan had 15 curve models last season and 14 for the autumn/winter 2023 collections. So, to recap, just 14 out of 2,400 models were considered curve or plus. That’s why Milan is in last place this season.
MFW hasn’t made any real attempt at change, just a small sprinkle. It was only designer Marco Rambaldi, who used four curve models in his show, that pushed the inclusion flag. Any other brands used one or two models at max.
PARIS FASHION WEEK
In second place, Paris had 90 designers, also averaging 40 models each, which came to a total of 3,600 models. Out of those 3,600, 40 were considered curve or plus.
Last season we had 33 curve models. I personally think this is a really positive result for the plus-size community; it’s a big step up from last season, and it doesn’t seem like it is tokenism. Ester Manas once again blew us away with the plethora of beautiful diverse bodies on their runway. Nina Ricci opened their show with plus-size model Precious Lee, and Alexander McQueen had French singer-songwriter Yseult walk their catwalk.
Changes are being made, but in ways I didn’t expect. I still believe there should be so much more, but the stats I am finding each season with #IncludingTheCurve really show who is championing us, who is leading by example, and who is simply afraid or, even worse, doesn’t care.
Should we be supporting these high-end designers who show little to no representation with a model or two, or encourage them to do better with support? Or do we stick to hyping up the brands who we know include us that aren’t on the runways, but do time and time again represent our curvier body shapes, such as:
Never Fully Dressed
Were you surprised by this season’s #IncludingTheCurve results? Will London and Paris be the new leaders when it comes to inclusive fashion on the catwalk? Will New York ever recover from this? Is Milan even entering the chat? Only next season will tell…
This post was originally published on Glamour . For more from curve model and author Felicity Hayward, follow her on Instagram @felicityhayward.