It wasn’t that long ago that fashion magazines were reporting a New York Fashion Week first: In February 2017, every major fall presentation included at least one model of color. Later, in September 2017, Glamour reported that there were over 200 non-straight-size models featured on the spring 2018 runways or at presentations. While this may sound like no big deal now, with conversations about representation filling our feeds, these were major steps forward in an industry long linked to its lack of diversity.
Fast forward to this year and fashion week looks to be more diverse than ever. Thanks to trailblazing designers like Christian Siriano and Becca McCharen-Tran for Chromat, as well as newcomers like Rihanna, the runways represent an extensive range of colors, sizes, ages, and genders. While the industry still has a long way to go, let’s applaud the designers who are championing for change in the meantime. Keep scrolling to see some of the most diverse shows from NYFW SS19. This is progress.
Savage x Fenty
Leave it to Rihanna to close the doors on NYFW in perhaps the most badass way possible. At the presentation-turned-runway of her super-inclusive Savage x Fenty lingerie collection, she cast models of all races and sizes. The sexy celebration of womanhood also featured pregnant models like Slick Woods (shown above) with their bumps on full display. The empowering spectacle was live-streamed on YouTube and will no doubt have some effect on what’s to come in the industry.
Diversity is nothing new for Christian Siriano, who has been featuring it on his runways for years now. Why? Because it’s real. “We try to find a great mix of beautiful people from all cultures and walks of life,” he told Refinery29 while casting for SS19. For the Hawaiian holiday-themed show, he used a thoughtful cast of both curvy and straight models, a mix of races, and a few men wearing unisex pieces.
The NYC fashion label is known for their emphasis on body positivity, and designer Becca McCharen-Tran once again put models of different sizes, ages, genders, backgrounds, and abilities (something the industry continues to struggle with) on the catwalk. In an empowering moment, amputee model Mama Cax, above, strutted down the runway in an embellished prosthetic.
Photo: @gigigorgeous official instagram
This is certainly a first for NYFW: When Los Angeles designer Marco Marco debuted his newest collection last weekend, he featured only transgender models, including Transparent actress Trace Lysette, model and activist Carmen Carrera, and YouTuber Gigi Gorgeous (above). “Although I have always had trans and non binary people in my shows, it became apparent to me that their presence was often overshadowed by cis gay men or cis gay men in drag,” the designer told Mic.com.
Prabal Gurung’s colorful spring collection represents a “cross-cultural journey, one that sees no borders.” Models cast in the vibrant show hailed from over 35 countries, including Denmark, Korea, Brazil, and Peru, to name a few. Winnie Harlow, who has vitiligo, and plus-size model Candice Huffine also took the stage. “Everyone’s body is different, even size 4, 6, 8. It’s always going to be different, but that’s what designing is,” he once said in an interview.
Claudia Li’s show on Sunday featured a runway consisting entirely of Asian models to highlight the uniqueness among these women. “I feel like often the fashion industry just tries to check a box — i.e., ‘We need an Asian girl for our show.’ But what kind of Asian girl? A Filipino girl? Singaporean? Chinese? Korean? ‘Asian’ doesn’t mean one thing,” she told HuffPost. “For me, it’s about recognizing that within a race, there is diversity as well.”
This was no traditional runway. Designers Carol Lim and Humberto Leon chose to put on a drag show starring more than 40 LGBTQIA+ models who gave personality to each look. “This is not a time or a country where many queer people get to feel like they truly belong; like they deserve to stand in the spotlight. … I hope this is what the future looks like,” said RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Sasha Velour while opening the show.
For her spring 2019 show, Cynthia Rowley held an open casting call for female roller skaters to perform in the clothing. The result? A stellar group of women of different body types, ages, and races. In a refreshing performance on the streets of NYC, the show embraced real women, something Rowley has always been able to do so well, enjoying their passion.