Breaking the Mold

by Madison Duddy

Photography courtesy of Style Has No Size

"Are you sure you are a size two?” the boutique owner asked as she panned my body, shaking her head. Of course I knew my size, and all people in fashion understand that European clothes run unquestionably small. All she had to do was grab one size up, but she had a vision for her runway show, and my body type was not it. I am always one to respect creative interpretation, but looking around at a room full of thin, Caucasian models, I was sure this vision was not her own, but one the fashion industry had doctored as ideal and standard.

This happened to me only two years ago, and the fashion industry’s many efforts to provide the public with a wide variety of representations of body types, races and sexualities is a slow and ongoing process.

Model Casey Guillard (COM ’19) has not only seen the apparent lack of representation, but also misrepresentation as diverse models are often valued more for their “diverse” label than their abilities.

“I definitely think that when companies do incorporate diverse models, they are more of like ‘that’s the token black model, or that’s the token different model’.”

Guillard’s comment plays into the misconception of inclusion in the fashion industry where designers think casting one plus-size, transgender or ethnically diverse model allows them to check off their HR boxes and avoid public pushback. Instead of focusing so much on meeting diversity quotas, they should understand that beauty is not exclusive to any single look.

Beauty cannot be defined and can come in many forms. Designers should embrace what each skin tone, body shape and sexuality can bring to their designs. American fashion designer Christian Siriano’s show at New York Fashion Week 2017 embodied the beauty of diversity. The models he chose were of various shapes, sizes, sexualities and races, making it accessible for all men and women. Gender-fluid model Austin K, curvy model Candice Huffine, transgender model Avie Acosta, and African-American model Precious Lee were just some of the many unique talents who rocked Siriano’s runway to Blur’s “Girls and Boys”. Siriano reminded the public that, as printed on his hoodie design, “we all grow in the same garden.”

Boston University student Malaika Moyer (COM ’21) also agrees that the public wants to see themselves represented in fashion.

“Nowadays, what people want to see more in a magazine are people who look different, people who look more like them, and people who aren’t perfect because, quite frankly, the ideal person isn’t,” she said. “They don’t exist. If you are trying to appeal to people to buy your products, you need to make it more attainable to regular people.”

In addition to Siriano, New York fashion designer Adrienn Braun is adopting this new era in fashion by showcasing her designs through her own vision––not the industry’s.

“I always make sure models look great in the designs and was never one to only pick the typical skinny models,” said Braun. “I always choose different size models to show everyone can look good in clothes."

Similar to some designers, Braun designs for everyone and values their unique characteristics. Braun sees each shape of a woman’s body and a woman’s skin color as opportunities to bring her designs to life. Her priority is to find models who pair with the designs so their shapes accentuate the lines and their tones make the colors pop.

Like many reforms, it will take time for the fashion industry to appreciate the beauty of diversity. Luckily, there are many promising designers and young people who are not afraid to forge ahead into this new era.