Located in New York, 11 Honoré is more than just an address dedicated to plus sizes. Far from the insipid models inspired by camping-tents, it always strives to choose trendy pieces, signed by major labels such à la Marc Jacobsor Jason Wu.
For its very first fashion week, the shop does imagine a collection. Instead, it presents the creations of several designers, including Joseph Altuzarra and Christopher Kane, in sizes previously unavailable.
Logically, XS is banned from the great baptism. Brandishing the hashtag #thenewrunway, the multibrand features women of all shapes and sizes, tall and short, young and mature, white and black. The highlight of the show? Laverne Cox, a transgender actress best known for her role in Orange Is The New Black, closes the march dressed in a Zac Posen tulle dress.
The same week, Byblos enlists Winnie Harlow, whose beauty defies standards and raises awareness about vitiligo. Adut Akech dominates the runways, Ashley Graham turns her weight into gold, and the transgender top Hari Nef is one of Gucci’s muses. Long criticized for its elitism, accused of exclusion and racism, has fashion finally opened up to diversity?
An idea that follows its time
In the 1990s, the golden age of haute couture, Naomi Campbell is the only real black supermodel. Apart from a few rare names, like Alaïa or Gaultier, most designers imagine their collections for women as white as the cocaine they hit while drawing.
July 2008, Franca Sozzani creates a tidal wave with the All Black Issue of VOGUE Italia. Never before have the pages of the magazine contained so much melanin. The kiosks are emptied, the issue will be reprinted three times…. We then realize, oh surprise, that black people also like fashion. New muses emerge on the podiums, the unique image of the Scandinavian blonde starts to crumble. Ten years later, the Pirelli calendar also includes a 100% black casting. Gigiand Bella Hadid claim their Arab origins, while Soo Joo Park, a top from Korea, becomes a Lagerfeld’s favourite.
Thus, the notion of diversity evolves with the times. Where it was only a matter of ethnicity a few years ago, its spectrum extends far beyond today. The need for representativity also concerns age, body shape, disability, gender… A concern that, for brands, necessarily involves the choice of the faces who represent them.
New York is a leader in this area. Each season is a cocktail of identities that would cause a stroke to any extreme right-wing politician. London and its usual eclecticism follow closely, then Milan and, finally, our dear capital. The City of Lights is more reluctant to change and is pleased with its ideals inherited from another time. Fortunately, the new guard of creators is more modern. Under their leadership, the Parisian “je ne sais quoi” is not about pigmentation or the date of birth.
Cash and convictions
Taken under the wing of Carine Roitfeld — former editor-in-chief of VOGUE Paris, stylist, popess of “porno chic” and mother I would have dreamed of having —, Halima Aden becomes the first top wearing a hijab. Max Mara, Alberta Ferretti, Christian Cowan… Everybody wants her. Not only does she allow brands to convey a message of tolerance, but also to court an entire market. When we know that Muslims’ fashion spending represents $254 billion, they would be wrong to deprive themselves of it (source The Fast Company, editor’s note).
Millennials can eat pasta for months to get Prada, we see secretaries with Louis Vuitton bags. Exclusivity can no longer work in a world where we have access to everything; luxury can no longer have a typical customer. As a result, the muse bears both a stylistic essence and a marketing symbol. When Donatella Versace turns to Stephanie Seymour to wear the last dress of her fashion show, she also calls on all those in their forties who admired her in the 90’s. However, linking the casting of “non-standard” models to a purely commercial approach would be reductive. That said, at a time when Instagram has become the fashion watchdog, this openness can only add to the brand’s attractiveness… and to its sales figures.
Un long chemin à parcourir
Not all causes are progressing at the same pace. Ethnic representativity is making considerable progress, as is the gender fluid one: for the FW 18 season, The Fashion Spot counts nearly 100 trans or non-binary models on the catwalk. Designers have more trouble regarding calories, with only ten brands hiring plus size models over the same period. As for the consideration of disability, it is almost non-existent — Lady Gaga’s Vuitton wheelchair does not count.
Yet, while we can be pleased to see a broader palette of profiles on the catwalks, the maisons still have to open their teams’ doors to a wider horizon. We bet if there was a black person among Prada’s creative people, she would have told them that this keychain was a little too Little Sambo. Diversity must be at the heart of the structure, beyond the showcase of fashion weeks and glossy paper. The rise of Virgil Abloh at LV, and Edward Enningful at VOGUE UK are a step in this direction. After all, how can real change take place if the same people always decide…? •