Afterpay Australian Fashion Week showed some exceptional diversity this year, that fills me with hope and excitement for the future. We were graced with shows run and created by First Nations designers with all Indigenous models, we saw trans models and even some age diversity amid the shows I attended. But one thing I found lacking, yet again, was size diversity.
Going into Australian Fashion Week this year as a guest I was excited and honoured to be among those invited. I really enjoy fashion, and my excitement stemmed from the AAFW panels and discussions around the importance of diversity at the start of the week.
While I wasn’t expecting shows to be as diverse as the likes of Rihanna‘s Savage X Fenty – I wasn’t expecting what we got. Three ‘plus size’ models and a sprinkle of models above a size 8.
This time of year it becomes so apparent that my size still isn’t recognised, accepted or desirable in the Australian fashion game, and that is a very familiar weight on my shoulders that I’ve been carrying for years. When I was first thinking about attending AAFW my mind raced over the very few brands that I know stock a size 18. The race was on to find something age appropriate that wasn’t frumpy, oversized, and covered in roses with a cold shoulder detail.
I did think about not going, but what would be the point? No one would notice and I’ve missed out on too many fun and important events in my life because I’ve not been able to find something to wear. My seat would be filled by another straight size influencer and this conversation wouldn’t be happening.
This year among the age, ability and racial diversity only 3/70 brands catered for a size 18. Even then there was only a handful that didn’t stop at a size 12, which was definitely reflected in the choice of models. By the end of the week I had lost so much hope for myself and women that wear 20+, that I almost cried tears of joy when I saw my beautiful friend and fellow Vivien’s model, Lauren McMath walk out in swimwear. One size 18 model. ONE! And I felt…grateful? So thankful to be represented?
I wonder if that’s how any of the straight size guests felt? Or if they have EVER felt that way?
Has it ever crossed their minds how lucky they are to have not felt the subtle and not-so-subtle digs of a fatphobic society?
I’m tired of people hiding behind the excuse, ‘oh, but Australia is a little bit behind the rest of the world’ – why? What’s stopping us from catching up? I’ve been told countless times that brands don’t stock above a size 12/14, because that’s not who shops in their stores.
To that I say the answer is simple: we don’t feel welcome.
I’ve sat front row at the shows of incredibly talented designers, in awe of their clothes, dying to wear them because I know they would look amazing on a curvy body. Yet I didn’t see myself represented and I know full well they don’t even make the garments in my size. So while feeling so publicly discriminated against, why would I then go out and shop there?
I’m 27 years old, I’ve been in this industry since I was 21, and the improvement I’ve seen in fashion over the last few years has been slow but happening, and for a long time I’ve taken comfort in that. At least it is changing, right?
But sometimes I feel like the push for inclusion is a fleeting trend.
I’ve watched NYFW and London Fashion Week change exponentially in recent years. We’ve watched the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show be cancelled and forced to show some diversity. We’ve seen Christian Siriano brilliantly show us how a diverse runway should be done.
If inclusivity isn’t enough to make brands want to change, then how about this… there is an entire group of people that want to see themselves represented, that are missing out on fashion and we have money to spend! Money we want to spend on expensive clothes to make ourselves feel fabulous instead of having to wear some ill-fitting, poor quality fast fashion. And with ‘average’ size women in Australia being a size 16+, there’s a huge market that the majority of brands are missing out on.
It’s a choice to make your garments in a small sample size, to only use one body type in your shows and to not make your clothes in extended sizing. More importantly, fashion shouldn’t be exclusive to one body type, one ability or one race.
No matter what your size, shape or ability, I hope you know you are worthy of respect and self-love and we deserve to see ourselves represented in fashion. Real people of ALL sizes, races and abilities deserve to be included.
It’s time to catch up, Australia.
Kate Wasley is an international model based in Sydney, Australia, with Vivien’s Model Management, and has been modelling full-time for the last six years. She has worked for a diverse range of clients all over the world, from Sports Illustrated to ASOS. She has made it her mission to create a diverse industry and regularly advocates for change via her social media.
You can find her social channel @katewas_ on Instagram.