New York Fashion Week is one of the 4 major fashion weeks in the world, where the industry’s biggest designers, brands, celebrities, magazine editors, fashionistas and buyers gather to see what will be the next season’s trends. It is a ritual that has been going on for decades and decades. Fashion lovers, the media and critics cover these events in order to stay ahead of the curve and not be left behind in the continua forward momentum of fashion trends.
But just over the last few years, there has been a different kind of momentum, one that has been largely fueled by voices being raised through social media platforms demanding diversity and inclusivity on the world’s biggest fashion stages. As a result there has been a springing forth, if you will, of plus size models, plus size fashion shows, super models being switched out for real life role models, and a regular dose of boundary-pushing exhibits.
At New York Fashion Week this time around, Italian organization FTL Moda put on a runway show that made news more for its message and its models, that just the clothes. In the past the label has made major statements by using models that aren’t necessarily cast from agencies such as Ford or IMG, instead they chose to highlight differently-abled people to show that fashion is for ALL bodies, not just a select few.
This year they have done it again, casting a down syndrome model, a young female amputee, and a woman in a wheelchair just to name a few. FTL Moda partnered up with a company called Global Disability Inclusion, a 100% women and disability-owned business helping other businesses and companies address disability inclusion needs.
The show featured outfits from designers such as Mr. De Curtis, Lulu et Gigi, Fumo Bespoke and Josefa Da Silva. You may recognize the model with down syndrome. She is Australian teen Madeline Stuart who has already made headlines around the world for being signed as the face of fitness brand Manifesta.
Another model featured was Rebekah Marine, who walked down the runway with 6 year old Gianna Schiavone. Both of them are congenital amputees. Rebekah has already modeled for FTL Moda in the past, as well as other brands, and is someone who is determined to use her presence in the fashion world to expand the definition of beauty and is known as the “Bionic model”.
Those in the audience also watched previous FTL Moda model Shaholly Ayers, who was born without her right arm below the elbow and Fausto Di Pino, a professional Italian model who has returned to the runway after undergoing treatment for cancer.
Now this is the type of show we want to see more of! Not as some sort of “other” spectacle, but positioned alongside all the stereotypical bodies in fashion in order to show that every body deserves to be represented in a fashion campaign, advertisement and on a runway.
Aside from the beautiful message they sent to all women out there who have never felt their bodies or appearance were included in mainstream fashion, another sign of the major impact of this show was seeing an image of Shaholly Ayers projected on a huge LED screen in the middle of Times Square, as shared by Global Disability Inclusion’s Twitter feed. NBD…
There used to be a time (and it does still exist in some corners of the industry) where fashion was an exclusive club, designed to be an industry that thrived off telling women and men that happiness would only be achieved if they bought into the narrow standards.
That whole “if they cry, they buy” mantra. But seeing the change in how brands and designers are now marketing to women, learning that the more diverse they are the more consumers they reach (which means more money – a win win for everyone!).
While it is still dominated by a narrow ideal where the majority of the models are white, thin girls, there are changes happening. We hope to see more ages, skin colors, abilities and genders represented on fashion.