The fashion industry is notorious for only casting extremely thin and light-skinned models who fit its unrealistically narrow standards when it comes to beauty. For many big brands, their company’s unspoken ethos for the longest time has been to sell a fantasy to consumers that they must look like a goddess or god to wear their clothes.
However, when Victoria’s Secret CMO Ed Razek controversially confirmed that the company wouldn’t hire plus-size or transgender models in late 2018, the resulting outcry for inclusivity in the industry became louder than ever before. In the wake of these comments, Razek resigned, the lingerie company pressed pause on its annual televised runway show, and the transgender model Valentina Sampaio joined their model roster.
Thankfully, we are beginning to bid farewell to unattainable appearances, as the fight for a fully inclusive fashion industry has been making powerful strides. More than just a trend, inclusivity looks to influence not only the clothing we wear, but how we view ourselves as well. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the current state of this movement.
Some of the biggest steps towards inclusivity can be seen on this year’s runways. This summer, the famous Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Runway Show recognized all forms of beauty with their diverse lineup of models. In fact, rising Muslim model Halima Aden opened the show wearing a burkini that read, “DON’T CHANGE YOURSELF, CHANGE THE GAME”.
Moreover, before New York Fashion Week (NYFW) opened its doors to their Autumn/Winter shows this year, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) had asked the participating designers to “promote diversity and inclusion, on and off the runway.” Many answered the call, as this NYFW featured 94 by non-sample-size models — making it the most diverse one, so far.
Still a Long Way to Go
Although the industry has been paying attention to the pressing need for inclusivity, there are significant changes that need to be made internally. While seeing a diverse cast of models walk the runways is a tremendous improvement, it’s not a full step forward. At the other end of the spectrum, the CFDA raised an issue about a lack of diversity within the fashion workforce — from entry-level roles, right up to the executives who shape the company’s ethos. It might be difficult to truly reform the industry if those who hold the power do not understand the importance of fashion inclusivity.
Additionally, efforts towards better diversity and inclusion on both runways and in the media are still met with vitriol among those who insist on rejecting bigger, older, non-binary, trans, disabled, and ethnic bodies.
Despite these continuing challenges, those who do not fit the mold have more options than ever, with clothing becoming more accessible to people from all walks of life. The range of different dresses on Woman Within balance style and comfort in sizes 12 to 44 — a testament to the growing size inclusivity showcased by independent fashion brands today. The variety of designs can be worn for work, weekends, and special occasions. Meanwhile, Zappos Adaptive’s line of functional apparel caters to the disabled, as it features wheelchair-friendly and post-surgical clothes. Consumers can help fashion inclusivity take a leap forward when they support brands that help advance the cause and use their voices as well.
With fashion’s biggest month just around the corner, NYFW fashion this September is expected to showcase more inclusivity in their collections. For instance, Tommy Hilfiger is teaming up again with Zendaya for a fashion show that celebrates inclusion, diversity, and empowerment, while the emerging and exciting womenswear designer Kim Shui is committed to always casting a diverse set of models.