Does The Fashion Industry Care About Body Diversity Yet?


 “I was definitely looked down upon by lots of people because they thought curve models weren’t cool,” explains Anna. “Not in fashion, we didn’t belong here. Now suddenly, from the hard work we’ve done, we’ve shown people our vision and how gorgeous a curve girl can look, just as much as a slim girl. We’ve helped to change people’s opinions by getting support from some designers and top photographers.”

There are cracks of light breaking through. Shillinglaw says her agency is busier than ever regarding brands booking ‘curve’ girls. “We had 10 girls in the Valentino Haute Couture Show [last season], which was very exciting for us. Let’s put it in perspective, if you compare how many slim models are used in fashion week to the number of curve models, there’s a long way to go. But we are taking steps forward.”

Indeed, Valentino’s spring 2022 couture offering had a cast whose diversity felt radical in the typically exclusionary world of Haute Couture. Pierpaolo Piccioli, the fashion house’s creative director, stated that he “imagined this Valentino Anatomy of Couture collection not on one single and idealised house model, but on a variety of women with different body frames and ages… promoting an idea of beauty that is not absolute.” 

Net-a-Porter, too, has recently announced extended sizing among many of its brands, stating that UK 22 was the best performing size in its swimwear category this year. Libby Page, a senior market editor at the online retailer, says: “We’re encouraging these conversations so we can continue to provide our customers with an incredible assortment, and what’s exciting is many brands are open to extending their size offering following our discussions.”

There are also smaller, independent labels looking to shake things up. Atlanta de Cadenet Taylor has just launched Lushious, a swimwear brand designed for every body. The nascent label borrows the ‘woke’ dialogue of diversity but, unlike some of its more cynical, corporate-run counterparts, Lushious really delivers on its promise of inclusivity and joy. “I love fashion,” says Cadenet Taylor. “But I hated what the industry was. I’d always wanted to have my own brand, but everything that I did was like, how do I push towards more inclusive sizing? How do I better the industry?”

The very structure of the fashion industry makes it difficult for young designers and smaller brands to make bigger sizes. At fashion schools, for example, patterns and fit models all adhere to a very specific idea of a UK size 8, while a lot of factories only have the capacity to make certain sizes. To buck the trend, as it were, can be expensive and requires a lot of effort, as Cadenet Taylor discovered: 

“I was like, ‘I don’t care that this is bad for margins. I have to go up to 5X’. I have a lot of plus-size friends, and I spoke to them to find out what I had to do to legitimise the brand. They told me that a lot of brands go up to 3X, yet most people need sizing to go up to 5X. So I went and made new patterns for every extended size. The initial output of cash that went into it was a loss.”


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