Breaking the model mold. If you’ve been observing 2016 New York Fashion Week, you’d notice more than the stunning spring/summer ensembles and the A-listers occupying the front row. Instead of enlisting top models like Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid and Chanel Iman, some designers are choosing to use “real” people to kill it on the catwalk.
“This season, we wanted to explore the idea of heritage, iconic pieces and the deep connection we have with our customers," Jenna Lyons, creative director and president of J.Crew said in a Sunday, September 11, release. "And because we feel personal style is so important to this concept, we chose a different approach with the models for this show. They are friends of the brand, members of our team and all people we admire. They range in age from 13 to 70, with style from classic to eclectic. They’re students and parents and grandparents; professionals, artists, teachers and activists. Each one has their own unique style and beauty, and it has been an incredible experience to approach a 'fashion show' from this point of view.”
One of Lyons' picks learned that modeling is a lot harder than it looks. “I've been standing here for an hour, and I won't lie, it's super hard,” Ramya Giangola, owner of fashion consulting business Gogoluxe, told Elle. “I’m usually on the other side of this, and I have a whole new perspective on Fashion Week because of this experience.”
Tracy Reese also tapped inspirational “real women” along with models for her September 11 presentation in New York Marble Cemetery, per an Instagram caption that same day. One of those ladies, Kristi Henderson, noted that participating in the show was a “dream come true.”
“Approaching 40 and being a size 12/14, you never imagine that you'll participate in any show; especially during New York Fashion Week," the director of special projects for Planned Parenthood told Essence. "I tried on three beautiful outfits that I'm excited about. But, the whole feel of the garden and fantasy is really exciting; especially for a non-model. It feels like a day of beauty and pampering."
Like Reese, Christian Siriano opened his catwalk to an array of models with different body types.
Though he’s blazed a trail for diversity (just look at his red-hot gown for Leslie Jones at the July Ghostbusters premiere), he hopes that his peers in the industry will follow suit. “I think they can,” he told Cosmopolitan. “I just think it's a lot of time and a lot of work … We're all in the world together, you know? And the models in the show who are ‘plus size,’ they're not in a special place, they're not wearing differently styled outfits. They're just beautiful girls who are in the show, like normal. Everything's normal. That's how it should be!”
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