Versace deploys plus-size models in Milan Fashion Week 2020

Ayesha Hussain, Contributing Writer

With the ascendancy of the Black Lives Matters movement and other social justice movements, the social foundation has been laid to consider the needs of all walks of life, and especially the often-exclusionary limits of the fashion industry. This trade has a long way to go in terms of equity, but a major fashion house, Versace, has recently taken a step in the right direction by featuring plus-size models during their runway show in Milan Fashion Week at the end of September.

Versace, a brand known for bold prints and its Medusa logo, showcased a few pieces of its Spring/Summer 2021 collection on three plus-size models for the first time in the company’s history. For an industry that has been thoroughly scrutinized for the lack of diversity in its models and apparel, this is a major development. I have long been an advocate for equity in the fashion industry, believing that chic clothing should be accessible to all body types and genders. One of my chief goals is to create a clothing line that caters to oft-overlooked demographics. The LGBTQ+ community needs comfortable clothing that appropriately reflects their gender expression, doctors require fashionable apparel that has flexibility, people who live in harsh climates need durable attire, and a wide range of body types — from petite to plus – all need clothing that adapts to their differential sartorial needs. 

Versace taking the first leap to incorporate a diverse set of models, which were plus-sized and racially diverse, paves the way for other big houses in the fashion industry to follow. Versace’s choice of showcasing looks similar to those seen on other “typical” models that are way too commonly seen in the fashion world — being tall, slim, lean and white — allows spectators to understand that these fashion pieces can be worn by anyone regardless of body type. By placing these plus-size models in clothing that embodies the same theme as the overall show, rules out the plus-sized figures as “the other” and much rather includes them and normalizes their body types.

From a financial perspective, incorporating these models into the show allows the company to expand its consumer base from those who fit our narrow societal standards of beauty. For the first time, some groups are seeing models that look like them. Instead of appealing to a market of slim, lean figures, the company can now extend to the plus-size categories — in turn contributing to greater sales and revenue. In the past, major designers seemed to cater mostly to size-twos, but now, more consumers who do not fit such a slender “desirable” size can shop for their own needs as well. Beyond high-end designers, “everyday-wear” brands will likely utilize this couture breakthrough in their lines, creating a variety of sizes, shapes and lengths to tailor different body shapes.

Additionally, including these groups in the runway shows will promote self-love. In a time in which many people face body image issues, eating disorders and other manifestations of mental illness, normalizing all body types encourages a spirit of compassion and love for ourselves. When consumers see that people who look like them are walking in large runway shows like Versace’s, these individuals gain self-confidence and realize that beauty is not exclusive to any one body shape. 

As a staple of the fashion world, Versace is using their publicity and influence as a vehicle to drive the fashion industry towards diversity, inclusivity and equity for all body types and skin colors. There is still a long way to go in terms of equity, improvement and social change, but I am excited to see the uprising remodeling that will occur in the fashion world that is especially needed, in a time that society is still lacking social justice. 

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