Fashion finally embraces models of all ages, races, genders and sizes
London fashion week – here are the designers who got it right in a style industry that's more diverse than ever
Diverse at London Fashion Week: from left, shows by Tome, Simone Rocha, Teatum Jones, and Christian Siriano.
Variety show: the J.Crew presentation at New York Fashion Week. Photograph: Brian Ach/Getty Images
While there is still a much broader discussion around diversity in fashion to be had, the 2017 autumn shows provided several milestone moments that made us hopeful for an inclusive future.
Using the runways as a platform for politics, some designers sent out feminist messages or constitutional statements, while others cast a range of models diverse in age, race, gender and size who best represent our multicultural society.
Teatum Jones opened London Fashion Week with a collection rejecting the idea of the perfect human form
Traditionally, catwalk models are defined by a narrow standard of beauty, however, this season the designers challenged the cookie-cutter approach, making the runways a little more representative of the real world.
Taking the call-to-action seriously, British-based designers Teatum Jones opened London Fashion Week with a collection inspired by a love of human stories and rejecting the idea of the perfect human form.
To a soundtrack of Meryl Streep excoriating Donald Trump for his mockery of a reporter with disabilities, the diverse casting included two models with disability: Kelly Knox, who was born without the lower half of her right arm; and Jack Eyers, whose leg was amputated when he was 16.
London Fashion Week is often a display of new talent and youth culture, but it was at Irish designer Simone Rocha’s show that an elegant vision of age was on display.
In recent years, the industry has finally started to celebrate older women. For spring 2015, Céline picked 80-year-old author Joan Didion to front their campaign and in the same year, 1970s music icon Joni Mitchell modelled for Saint Laurent. Last year 72-year-old Lauren Hutton closed Bottega Veneta arm-in-arm with model du jour Gigi Hadid.
This season the trend continued with Rocha casting modelling legends Jan de Villeneuve, Bendetta Barzini, and Marie Sophie Wilson.
Stateside, the inclusive movement gained traction too. A champion of diversity, New York-based designer Christian Siriano proved that fashion is made for women of all shapes, sizes and races by presenting his most varied collection yet. Of the 53 outfits he sent down the runway, 10 were worn by plus-size models, and nearly half by non-white models.
Ashley Graham became the first plus-size model to walk for the designer Michael Kors
Backstage at his show, Siriano said, “Especially with what’s happening in our world, it was important today to show as many different shapes, cultures, everything . . . and just to celebrate women.”
Other designers have followed suit, making subtle changes in their line-ups that reflect a great push towards diversity. Making her NYFW debut, Ashley Graham became the first plus-size model to walk for the designer Michael Kors. Demonstrating his appreciation of women of all sizes, designer Prabal Gurung sent out plus-size stars Candice Huffine and Marquita Prong.
Marc Jacobs set the diversity bar high
Elsewhere, Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin, from label Tome, used the female form to give their aesthetic strength, using a slew of plus-size women and older model Jacky O’Shaughnessy, while American labels J. Crew and Eckhaus Latta bypassed models and cast a range of personalities of different ages and some friends.
Closing NYFW, Marc Jacobs set the diversity bar high for the rest of fashion month, with a colourful cast of models including a handful of transgender icons such as Casil McArthur and Stav Strashko.