Influencer Sarah Chiwaya, who has seen a sharp decline in the fashion world’s commitment to size-inclusiveness in recent years, voiced her concerns during Spring/Summer 2023 at New York Fashion Week in September 2023. , solidified when she realized there was a real shortage of plus-size models on the runway.
“I hate that my fears that body diversity is going to take a major step backwards this season are proving to be justified, especially from so many big names,” she wrote on Instagram. I got
As a popular plus-size shopping guide and brand consultant, Chiwaya has seen the plus-size fashion industry struggle with a post-pandemic resurgence. Following PR efforts in general in 2021 and Old Navy’s recent body quality initiative (rebranding around size inclusivity and bringing all sizes from 0 to 28), the We have reduced the plus-size department to. Stores — Downsizing after less than a year due to failure to meet profit expectations.
Plus-size options are already very limited, so price cuts like this felt like a blow to disappointed consumers. “And yet, it’s only a small step forward. It can feel insurmountable at times.”
And fashion week crawls even slower than retail.
According to The Fashion Spot’s seasonal report, body diversity at NYFW steadily increased from spring 2016 to spring 2020, with bookings for curvy models rising from 14 to 68 at its peak. From there, the industry saw an even steeper decline, with only 27 plus-size models on display in Fall 2020. The pandemic put many designers on a step back from exhibiting in the real world, so the following year saw a terrible representation, with that number jumping to 48 when Fashion Week resumes in full form in spring 2022. In fall 2022, it was consistently 51. According to The Fashion Spot, the cast of plus-size models represented 5.09% of the total cast. Just to be clear here, this represents her 5.09% of the community that makes up her 68% of American women.
“We still have a long way to go,” says Jaclyn Sarka, agent and co-owner of JAG Models. “We have had so many great precasts for this season and all the casting agents have been in contact. And suddenly you see the same faces on the runway that you saw last season.”
Sarka attributes the shift in polarization between pre-pandemic and current representations to how COVID has dramatically changed the fashion landscape. In the “older days,” as many think, the magnifying glass was put on brands to identify those who prioritized inclusivity over those who didn’t. Since the 2016 presidential election, the most talked-about word in fashion and media has been ‘representative’. Everyone had different definitions of terms, but no one wanted to risk cancellation and skip the conversation.
One statistic in particular swirled around at the time and got a lot of attention. It was a report in which he estimated the value of the plus-size fashion market at $24 billion. The growth potential was great and attracted the interest of many designers and brands. The general public to size inclusivity, whether they want to take advantage of it through size expansion or benefit from the body-positive social media people who have increasingly spoken out. The pivot of was well documented.
“I think COVID has a lot to do with [the shift backward]let’s be honest,” Sarka said, sticking with what many brands felt was safe when the financial turmoil hit. It’s a financial risk, requiring initial and long-term investment (from fabrics to fitted models, marketing, etc.). We have chosen to focus on the customers we have already developed instead.[Designers] We were out of the box,” continues Sarka. “So, going back to the way we thought a few seasons ago, ‘We can use one or two.’ [curve girls], but that’s it. Because no one knows what will happen to the economy. ”
Curvaceous luxury shoppers are less established than mass market consumers. There are many reasons for this, including price, poor marketing, and accessibility. Then, of course, there’s the age-old conditioning that this section of the market is thin and only for the elite, keeping plus-size eyes and minds out of the slim chance that they, too, can participate in a rare world. high fashion.
This isn’t just an American problem, many European fashion weeks in the past have prioritized the slender figure. powerfully demonstrated and surprised many people. But September’s fashion month is still in full swing, and it’s unclear how London, Milan, and Paris will perform.
Culturally, the conversation also seems to be shifting backwards. Celebrities like Rebel Wilson and Adele, who once rose as plus-size leaders, are making headlines for their massive weight loss. Did. And because nearly everyone is gaining weight in the pandemic (the American Psychological Association reports that the average American gained 29 pounds in the first year of lockdown, with 61% reporting unwanted weight changes). ), the race to lose everything continues.
All of this, of course, contributes to a decline in interest in showing larger sizes on the runway. Take Corina Strada, who sent model Alba Claire onto the catwalk as documented by Gram, and according to the brand’s website, it doesn’t sell more than a size 10.; Show inclusivity, but you can’t follow shoppers.
“It still feels slightly tokenistic. One or two [curve girls] And everyone else is the same size,” says JAG Models’ Adam Hughes. “There is nothing even between 0 and 14” [showcased]; it has a daily sample size of 0 and [the token plus-size model]”
Model Michaela McGrady even wonders if designers now expect bad press and social media attention.
“We live in a capitalist society, so this attention and eyeball would be worth money,” she explains. oh, i thought twice [calling out this problem on Instagram] this week.Should I pay more attention to these [problematic] brand? Are they worthy of your brand’s attention?”
Report published in February 2022 Instyle We found that 20% of shows on the CFDA’s official calendar offer sizes 20 or greater. Also, 70% of his designers suggested a size above his 12, but the majority stopped at his 14/16. Jumping into sizing, where he doesn’t just show one curvy model on the runway but actually offers more sizes, requires a lot of investment from designers. Given that design, including size, is not taught at the country’s top fashion institutions, there is no size range, or ability to do so.
The slow shift from representation in recent years is a shock to those unfamiliar with the conversation. But for people like model Jordan Underwood, the lack of body diversity at NYFW is to be expected. We looked to support from like-minded industry members for brands like Emma Zack’s Berriez, who announced. Ray; RCA public label by Renee Cafaro; Plus-size fashion has always thrived inside out, and these labels are proof of that.
Underwood praised Berriez after walking the brand’s runway show, saying, “It’s pointless about the lack of body diversity without cheering up fat models who are ready and ready to get booked.” “There are examples of brands making efforts to include people of all sizes, races, abilities and genders in their work during and after NYFW.”
That said, there are several famous designers on the official CFDA calendar who have demonstrated their commitment to body diversity, and the moment needs to be celebrated. And Tommy Hilfiger not only featured bustling faces like Ashley Graham, Paloma His Elsesser, and Precious His Lee, but by sending his two plus-size male models down the runway like never before. , caused an exciting uproar.
Influencer and editor Vera Gerrard says, “The fashion industry has a whole problem with inclusive casting, but plus-size men are probably one of the most represented groups.” . “Multiple curvy male models walked the Tommy runway, but their looks were styled on purpose. You could even put it in puffers and chunky knits, which many designers tend to do when including curvilinear models purely for the sake of optics. I did.”
Many of those who have shared their thoughts on this piece seem to think the designers are turning their backs on body diversity because plus-size consumers aren’t the target audience. But at the end of the day, fashion is a money-making machine. But how can you turn your back on plus-size shoppers before they walk you through the door? revealed to be one.
There are no easy answers to these questions. But it’s clear that new ways of change must enter the world of fashion if body diversity is to be meaningfully displayed on the runway. it won’t work. Not from within the plus-size community where speaking out has already become an everyday activity. But for those who have the power to leverage their voice regardless of body type and bring value back to the importance of size availability as well as expression.
“We feel complete when we don’t have to talk about this anymore,” Sarka says.