THIS FASHION WEEK has seen greater diversity than any year previously — in terms of the designers presenting, as well as the models who have been cast on the runways.
Indigenous designers have found themselves front and centre at the Indigenous Fashion Projects runway and will shine on the closing runway for First Nations Fashion + Design; the Adaptive Clothing runway spotlighted models with physical disabilities and the importance of creating person-led designs; while the likes of Gary Bigeni, Erik Yvon and Mariam Seddiq have all impressed guests with their commitment to showcasing mid- and plus-sized bodies — which, needless to say, has been a glaring blind spot in prior years. But further spotlighting the importance of inclusivity, this year, AAFW presented the first ever Curve Edit: A runway featuring six designers whose garments fit bodies sized 12 to 26, curated by Chelsea Bonner, founder of the plus-sized model agency BELLA Management, and long-time ‘body image warrior’.
“It’s been a long wait and it should have happened years ago, along with more inclusivity in every fashion runway,” internationally renowned Australian model Robyn Lawley, who is based in the US and made the trip back to her home country specially for the runway, told BAZAAR in the days leading up to the runway. “The designers involved in this runway are the ones who have been size inclusive from the beginning and deserve recognition for that.”
The designers in question? 17 Sundays, Saint Somebody, Embody Women, Vagary the Label, Harlow and Zaliea; all of which, as Lawley pointed out, are filling the gap in the industry for fashion-forward garments tailored to larger bodies.
To cheers and applause, Lawley opened the runway in SAINT SOMEBODY swimwear — a brand created out of sheer necessity by Sophie Henderson-Smart, who told BAZAAR “I searched the globe for a beautiful quality, on-trend designer swimsuit made to fit my size 16 body. I scoured all the international sites and even with a healthy budget, came up with nothing … When you consider that I am actually an average size woman — isn’t that crazy? Yes, it is. I thought well, I really want some nice swimwear and if no one else is doing it, it may as well be me.”
Her ‘Just As You Are’ collection featured sexy, considered swimwear — no uncomfortable, unforgiving, unsupportive spaghetti straps in sight, thank you very much. Ruching details, cheeky cuts, bright colours and bold leopard print patterns all made a case for plus-sized swimwear designed to show off the body rather than hide it — “No need to change a thing to wear the bright colour, or be a certain age to wear the cool print,” Henderson-Smart explains.
Vagary brought classic boho charm to the runway, with easily wearable, flirty and romantic designs. Maxi dresses floated to the floor in sweet paisley patterns and angelic off-whites; designs focusing on the décolletage with v-neck and off-shoulder detailing.
Next up, 17 Sundays offered their take on the 90s throwback trend.
“Our inspiration for this collection was the ’90s, the birth era of double denim and the decade that truly celebrated denim as a fashion cloth,” designers Claire Primrose and Nikala Vagg told BAZAAR. “We shot our campaign with throwback echoes of the big denim campaigns of the ’90s and focused on seaming and washing for the runway.”
Styled with rocker-style graphic T-shirts, models hit the runway in jeans and shorts in acid washed blues, whites and greys.
“The history and universality of the cloth is iconic and the technical process of creating comfort fits, on-trend silhouettes and developing wash recipes to offer a boutique denim range specifically for plus size customers is a challenge and a passion,” designers Claire Primrose and Nikala Vagg tell BAZAAR.
Harlow blended some of the edginess of 17 Sundays with the bohemian vibes of Vagary, with a mix of textured black fabrications and floral prints. Effortless dresses move beautifully with the body, while wide leg trousers and jumpsuits provide an alternate offering to the classic wrap dress.
“It’s a definite pinch me moment,” Harlow designer Kerry Pietrobon wrote on Instagram. “Owning a plus size brand I have never felt like Harlow would be invited to walk AAFW … My younger self would be so damn chuffed if she could see me now.”
Embody Woman is up next; with stylish smart casual to evening-appropriate garments offering a little elevation. A statement structured yet oversized blue suit is a standout moment, as is a gold lamé jumpsuit bringing a touch of 70s dancing spirit.
Zaliea is last but certainly not least; closing the runway with sexy, sultry designs set to a toe-tapping soundtrack of ACRAZE’s ‘Do It To It’. A series of glamorous and elegant evening gowns captivate guests with their sensual power.
Cut-outs and thigh-high slits are seductive and daring; velvet hugs the body in an off-the-shoulder design fit for a Bond girl; and Art deco-inspired fringed beading drips off a show-stopping silver gown that is nothing short of mesmerising on a radiant Lawley.
One final lap to raucous applause, and the models are beaming joyously — many faces familiar from other shows throughout the week, where they’ve become casting favourites. Bodies fitting sizes 12 to 26 parade the runway, all ages and skin tones exemplifying a beautiful spectrum of women.
This runway isn’t about a singular spot reserved for tokenistic size 10-12 models walking in headliner shows; but rather about carving out a greater space for models of all sizes within the fashion industry, specifically demonstrating the diversity of looks that come to life on sizes larger than sample — sizes which the vast majority of the nation seek out.
“My vision is for body representation in fashion to be more than tokenism and to remove the stigma associated with bigger bodies,” says Henderson-Smart. “Let’s make the average size woman the norm on the runway, in fashion magazines, in campaigns, in stores. Samples are still size 8 when most women are 14 to 16. The numbers don’t add up.”
Primrose and Vagg add that they hope the runway — and the general move towards greater consideration of size inclusivity — will also free women from social norms and insecurities.
“I hope that women will realise that their relationship with their body is just a small part of a bigger journey and there are so many clothing options to accompany you on the ride,” they say. “Seeing bigger models and plus brands taken seriously by the fashion press in Australia will make so much difference toward healing this rift so I hope this continues and we can see more diversity on the runways of the future.”
With this year’s Fashion Week nearly behind us, all eyes will be on next year’s to see continued diversity in the scheduling and casting — with even more size representation across headliner runways for mainstream brands.