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Why Do Plus Size Influencers Still Care About Fashion Month?


Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash

This week marks the end of Fashion Month, when fashionistas from all over the world attend fashion shows from designers showcasing their work in New York, London, Milan and Paris.

Even the most casual follower of fashion probably has one influencer on their Instagram feed fawning over the latest haute couture and celebrity sightings during Fashion Month. If you haven't been following Fashion Month, here are some takeaways:

  • Chromat and Christian Siriano once again had inclusive runway shows, while plus-size designer/retailer Rene Taylor filled her show with plus-sized models. Strangely, there wasn’t a lot of press surrounding Taylor, who is a plus size designer making plus size clothing. But there were a lot of plus size influencers at NYFW this season.

  • Felicity Hayward boycotted London Fashion Week due to the lack of diversity at the show, citing NYFW as the better week for inclusivity. However, writer/director Lena Dunham walked the 16Arlington show.

  • Paloma Elsesser and Jill Kortleve were in the Fendi show during Milan Fashion week – the first time the label featured curve models in their show. Anna O’Brien of Glitter and Lazers was at the Dolce and Gabbana show, and wore a couture dress by the designers. O’Brien posted her photos wearing the dress and posing with Stefano Gabanna to her Instagram. Still, only five people questioned her alliance with the design team, considering their past fatphobia and comments about the LGBT community. (Disclosure: Strutter was one of the five people).

  • At Paris Fashion Week, Elsesser walked in the Alexander McQueen show, while Kortleve was in the Chanel show, the first time a plus size model walked for the label in 10 years. Note the return of one plus size model to Chanel happened a year after the passing of label creative director Karl Lagerfeld, who was a noted fatphobic. However, American designer Sasha Walton was the first plus size designer to be a part of Paris Fashion Week Studio.

Of all the shows during Fashion Month, New York was considered the most inclusive city. However, it wasn’t as inclusive as we thought.

According to The Fashion Spot’s Fashion Week Diversity Report, 26 plus size models walked during in NYFW, a decline from 68 plus size models in NYFW last September. That is a 68 percent decrease in plus size visibility in less than six months. The number of transgender models, models of color and older models on the NYFW runway also declined.

Try as most plus size influencers might, a smattering of plus size models at fashion shows is not a win for plus size women. The Fashion Spot data can’t be denied–plus size visibility took a severe decline this Fashion Month.

So It begs the question: Why do plus size influencers continue to support designers who rarely support the plus size cause? Why attend fashion shows of designers who’ve ignored 70 percent of shoppers for decades? It feels like rejection, season after season, with the hope of a different result. There’s a saying about that.

We should celebrate fashion. But it’s disheartening to see designers get praise for including one plus size model in its show. How many more seasons will Chromat and Siriano remain champions of fashion inclusivity?

Finding luxury fashion size above 14 is slightly more accessible thanks to 11Honore, the e-commerce fashion site that sells designer clothing in extended sizes. Although 11Honore hosts trunk shows in some cities, the store lives online. So do most apparel lines. It's 2020 - we shop online, especially for plus size clothing.

The retail industry is trying new ways to get people in stores, via pop-up shops and experiences to generate revenue. And some plus size online stores have actual brick-and-mortars. But you know what would be a sure-fire way to get people to shop? Retail stores stocking beautiful clothing that is genuinely size-inclusive (read: beyond size 24). Macy’s has carried plus sizes for decades, and its recent collection with fashion influencer Danielle Bernstein is size inclusive from 00-24, however not all the pieces in the line have extended sizing.

When a designer does include a plus size model in their show, it’s like a glimmer of hope that size inclusion is just one season away. But a handful of designers working with a few plus size models isn’t a sign of changing times. It’s further proof there’s still work to be done in the fashion industry.

Photo: Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash

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