I had a very interesting experience during New York Fashion Week this season.
I felt so much excitement going into it. For one, it finally felt like a little bit of life was coming back to NYC since the pandemic started, but also because being invited as a guest was a full-circle moment for me, considering that I had interned at Fashion Week since 11th grade.
I remember years ago at the final show I interned at, I finally decided that I didn’t want to pursue a career in fashion because, when I looked around at the shows, I was literally the only curvy girl in sight. It made me feel like I just didn’t belong in the industry and to me — at the time — that seemed as though it was never going to change. Of course, I didn’t know that years and years later I’d have a platform where I can actually share my frustrations about this exact issue — and that people would be listening.
I definitely enjoyed my NYFW overall but, at the same time, I also had moments of disappointment. There are so many things I learned about Fashion Week that you’d probably never know unless you experienced it yourself, so that’s why I’m here to tell you about it firsthand.
The first show I went to I was asked to sit in the front row. I didn’t realize how “cool” it was to be in the front row until I started to catch on to what that really involves: When you’re asked to sit front row, the brand or designer will usually send you an outfit to borrow for their show. Basically, you need to wear their clothes, or they aren’t going to want you sitting in the front. It was enlightening to hear how different influencers and guests were treated prior to the shows, too, which ultimately led me to realize that the more followers you have, the better you will be treated.
For a few of the shows I went to, I was sent multiple outfits to try on ahead of time, while some of my other friends had to go to in-person fittings to get their outfits. Some people are asked to give these outfits back to the brand after attending their show, but if you don’t get a follow-up email about the outfit in a day or two following the show, that basically means you are “worth” keeping the outfit — to them, at least.
One brand told a friend of mine that they would have to move her assigned seat out of the front row if she didn’t fit or wear the clothes given to her. When I heard that, my heart sank. Yes, I’m excited to attend Fashion Week as a guest for the first time, but it made me consider if any of this actually aligns with my beliefs and values, considering that my whole brand is based around how it’s not our fault that brands don’t always make clothing that fits us. We should never blame ourselves and being penalized for that is never okay.
So, aside from the stress of making sure clothes fit me for events and shows (which did end up working out for me personally), the actual shows were also very eye-opening for me. I never realized until last week how few strides the high-end fashion industry has made when it comes to size inclusivity. I think I hadn’t realized this mainly because I’ve been so focused on fast fashion, big retailers and small businesses, and I never really shop for things that have such a high price point. At every show I attended, I found myself waiting for more curvy or plus-size bodies to walk down the runway — or even any at all. To be honest, a majority of the shows had none.
I started to think about why this was and what I could possibly do about it, but then I realized that the only reason I started to get attention from brands in the first place was by calling them out by name, respectfully making points about things that need to change. If you really think about it, high-end designers are rarely ever called out for the lack of inclusivity in their clothing and model choices. In my opinion, one size 10 or 12 model in a show simply isn’t enough.
I’m not upset that I noticed any of this happening, because it’s only preparing me more for future Fashion Weeks. I really took notes on which designers actually made an effort and which designers couldn’t care less about whether or not people of all body types wear their clothing. Some of the designers that I noticed making a change in their model choices and clothing in positive ways are Christian Siriano, Jason Wu, Gabriela Hearst, Brandon Maxwell, Michael Kors, Peter Do, Moschino, Chromat and Prabal. Although it’s not a designer brand, Pretty Little Thing’s runway actually impressed me the most. The brand had models of all kinds: male, female, tall, short, petite, plus-sized, disabled and a variety of ages. I’m pretty sure there was a 3-year-old that even walked the runway — and that is what we need!
To the designers that are listening and care about finally including the people who have always felt left out of the fashion industry, like myself, I applaud you. And, to those who still haven’t hopped on the bandwagon, I truly encourage you to do so.
If you enjoyed this story, check out Remi Bader’s reflection on her year of unexpected growth.
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