Australian Fashion Week is going to include a plus-size runway, 26 years after the event was started. About fkn time.
The runway will take place in May during fashion week in Sydney. It’s called The Curve Edit and will be staged by Bella Management CEO Chelsea Bonner.
“If I had pitched this idea even five years ago, it never would have happened,” Bonner told The Guardian.
It’s one of multiple important steps forward when it comes to celebrating and showcasing fashion on the runway. This year’s fashion show will also feature an Adaptive Clothing Collective, a runway show showcasing fashion for people with disabilities.
In the Adaptive Clothing Collective all the runway looks will be custom-designed based on the individual requirements of each model, as per The Guardian. The runway was first announced in late January.
The decision to include The Curve Edit in Australian fashion week has been welcomed, particularly because Australian fashion is notoriously lacking in size diversity. But is it enough?
Chloe Papas is the co-organiser of A Plus Market, a Melbourne-based plus-size fashion market.
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Chloe told PEDESTRIAN.TV the runway was a “fantastic step”. But it’s a first step, not a final one.
“It is a fantastic step that we’re going to see plus-size representation on the runway this year and that we’ll see some really great inclusive brands and plus-size babes out there,” she said.
“I think what we’re hoping is that this opens the door to a much bigger conversation.”
As Chloe pointed out, a “genuinely inclusive world” would feature plus-size models and inclusive brands in all elements of the festival.
“We wouldn’t just be seeing a niche event for this, and we’d be having a much bigger conversation about size diversity in fashion,” Chloe said.
“We need to start seeing this as a social justice issue. [That includes] the lack of representation of plus-size or fat people on our runways, but also the lack of access to inclusive fashion across the board.”
Gunditjmara, Bindal, Yorta Yorta and Torres Strait Islander person Tarneen Onus Williams — a community organiser and fat activist — told PEDESTRIAN.TV they hoped the runway represented the diversity of plus-size bodies.
They raised concerns about whether it would reinforce the beauty standards of the straight-size modelling industry on plus-size models.
“I really hope that they will be diverse in the people they include and not just mimic mainstream models,” Tarneen said.
“That’s going to be what I’ll be watching: what sort of bodies will be included as a part of that and what will these bodies look like?”
Like Chloe, Tarneen pointed to the importance of body-positivity and fat liberation as a political movement.
“They need to commit to the politics behind [it] and that means being inclusive of people with different abilities and people who don’t fit into the standard model [ideal],” they explained.
Writer and content creator Lacey-Jade Christie told PEDESTRIAN.TV she felt the decision to include the plus size runway was “really significant”.
“I think at the moment we’re seeing such a push for diversity on the runway, especially when it comes to bodies of different abilities and bodies of different sizes,” she said.
Like Chloe, Lacey-Jade pointed to the lack of access plus-size people have to fashion. While some big, affordable brands have increased their size range, they don’t include the same clothes as the straight-sized fashion ranges. Too often, bigger brands creating plus-size clothes rely on dark colours and drab, dreary fits.
“The more normalised cute plus-sized fashion becomes, the more stores will see it as a viable option and the more [it will become] a readily-available option,” Lacey-Jade said.
“That’ll make such a huge difference to so many people with regards for accessibility.”
While so many small, ethical brands — like those featured in Australian fashion week — are doing amazing work for the plus-sized community, it’s also important to have cheaper options.
Tarneen highlighted a brand they worked with which changed its sizing after getting feedback from customers. It consulted plus-size people and ultimately improved its clothing.
“People gave them feedback and they were able to perfect the sizes and provide clothing for fat people,” Tarneen said.
But that brand is the exception, not the rule.
“The options aren’t there for fat people…I would love to see more brands work with fat people and ask for feedback on their clothes,” Tarneen explained.
That systematic change also requires a fundamental shift in how we perceive bigger bodies.
“Australian society doesn’t think that fat people are hot and this is why we get such poor clothing,” said Tarneen.
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Effecting meaningful change isn’t just about one runway. It’s about what comes afterwards.
“I don’t think that this runway will affect a huge amount of change by itself, but I think it’s a step in the right direction,” said Lacey-Jade.
“It’s an opportunity for these small brands to show big businesses and bigger labels that if the small brands can do it, the big brands can do it too.”
For Chloe, it’s important that decisions like this lead to uncomfortable but important conversations about Australia’s fashion industry.
“For us at A Plus and me personally, we talk about the fact that it does come down to systemic discrimination and that’s a difficult concept for people to grapple with,” she explained.
“At the end of the day, as a society we’re not comfortable with fat people or plus-size people having the same access to anything, including fashion, that everyone else does.”
By refusing to totally embrace size-diversity, the fashion industry doesn’t just isolate plus-sized consumers. Chloe said it also shuts out the designers, brands and stylists doing the work.
It’s important that all of those in the plus-size fashion industry, from brands to models, are uplifted. Lacey-Jade believes the runway is a great opportunity to do that. She’s flying from Melbourne to Sydney to attend the show.
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“[It’s a chance] to celebrate not just the brands involved but the plus-size models involved that will be walking on the runway,” she said.
Her hope is that this will be a lasting change.
“The next time there’s a fashion week, if there isn’t a plus-sized runway or [diversity] in the straight-sized runway, people will turn around and say ‘this would be so much better if there were more body sizes involved’,” she said.
“I’m really excited to see this happen.”