‘A definitive backslide.’ Inside fashion’s worrying runway trend | CNN

Photo of author


After the Fall-Winter 2023 catwalks concluded, a glaring trend emerged that overshadowed popular styles like ruffles, pleats, and tailored coats.

Throughout New York, London, Milan, and Paris fashion shows, there was a noticeable absence of plus-size models. This occurred at a time when several prescription injectable appetite suppressants are available in the US, sparking discussions. The UK also recently approved two such medications, marking a significant increase in weight loss drug availability.

Injectables like Wegovy and Ozempic, both containing semaglutide as the active ingredient, have become popular choices for weight loss, with celebrities openly endorsing them as effective tools. These medications, originally intended for managing Type 2 diabetes, have gained traction in the weight loss realm.

The absence of plus-size models on the runways during the Fall-Winter 2023 season has raised concerns among fashion critics and advocates for diversity. This regression in representation has faced harsh criticism within the fashion industry, prompting a broader examination of its potential consequences: the current availability of weight loss solutions suggests that achieving a size zero is merely a prescription away.

In a notable step forward, models Jill Kortleve and Paloma Elsesser broke boundaries by becoming the first non-sample-size models to walk for Fendi. Similarly, brands like Erdem and Valentino have made headlines by embracing a more diverse range of body types in their shows. However, the recent lack of representation of curvier models on runways indicates a concerning shift in the industry.

Despite attempts to reach out, Fendi and Valentino did not provide a response to CNN, while Erdem chose not to comment on the matter.

A study by fashion search engine Tagwalk revealed a 24% decrease in mid and plus-size models compared to the previous season. Additionally, a report by Vogue Business found that the vast majority of looks presented during the Fall-Winter 2023 shows featured sizes typical of US 0-4, failing to represent the broader population where the average American woman wears a size 14 or above.

Models on the runway at Erdem's Fall-Winter 2023 show during London Fashion Week.

Mina White, an IMG model agent representing plus-size and curve models like Elsesser and Graham, described the lack of diverse body representation on the runways as a significant setback. Reputable designers seemed to steer away from utilizing curvier models, contrary to their previous practices, as noted by White.

White criticized the fashion industry’s reluctance to showcase a more diverse range of body types, expressing frustration at the discrepancy between showcasing inclusivity in the front row with celebrities like Ashley Graham while failing to reflect this diversity on the runways.

Some observers believe that describing this shift as a “backslide” is overly generous, highlighting the stark contrast between the runway representation and the real-world diversity that should be reflected in fashion campaigns and shows.

Fashion journalist Amy Odell, in her recent Substack newsletter, questioned why terms like ‘plus-size’ and ‘mid-size’ are used to categorize women as opposed to ‘straight-size’ women, emphasizing the lack of representation of a diverse range of body shapes and sizes in runway shows and fashion imagery.
A few smaller brands like Di Petsa, Karoline Vitto, and Sinead O’Dwyer in London, and bigger names like Christian Siriano, Coach, Kim Shui, Collina Strada, and Bach Mai in New York, prioritized inclusivity by featuring size-diverse models in their lineups. Similarly, in Paris, Esther Manas showcased a refreshing runway with fun and feminine looks that flattered a variety of body types, continuing to advocate for size diversity.
While there were some instances of mid- and plus-size castings at designers like Off-White, Michael Kors, and Harris Reed’s debut for Nina Ricci, the industry still faces challenges in casting curve models due to the standardization of sample sizes for runway shows. The limited availability of larger sample sizes poses obstacles for ensuring representation of diverse body types on the runway.
However, efforts by casting director Gilleon Smith White to introduce brands to new faces with specific measurements in advance of the runway season aim to address these challenges. Despite pushback from some brands citing financial constraints in creating larger samples, White stresses the importance of proper education and commitment to achieving inclusivity in fashion.
Beyond the lack of representation, the industry’s prioritization of creating custom, made-to-fit pieces for celebrities while claiming financial constraints for inclusive runway samples is criticized for perpetuating exclusionary practices within the fashion industry.
Stylist and editor Francesca Burns highlighted the issue of sample sizes, recounting a viral incident where none of the Celine looks sent for styling fit the size UK 8 model booked for the shoot. Burns expressed concern over the model’s feelings of shame and embarrassment, emphasizing the need for change in industry standards.
Despite the slow progress, there has been a growing enthusiasm for inclusivity in fashion campaigns, magazine covers, and editorial shoots, showcasing more options for plus-sized talent. However, the need for inclusive clothing options remains crucial to avoid falling back on stereotypical representations of curve models in specific clothing types like lingerie or trench coats, urging for more diverse and authentic representation in the fashion industry.In the April issue of British Vogue, Elsesser, Lee, and Jill Kortleve are celebrated as “The New Supers” by editor-in-chief, Edward Enninful. The cover story highlights their influential presence in the fashion industry.

The magazine acknowledges the lack of body diversity on catwalks but asserts that the cover is a recognition of the trio’s power rather than a statement. However, some online critics noted that while plus-size models showcased Saint Laurent dresses, these garments were not widely available in plus sizes for purchase.

Enninful expressed disappointment with the lack of diversity at the Fall-Winter 2023 runways in his social media post. He emphasized the need for a broader representation of body types in the fashion industry.

Industry insiders like White stress the importance of setting industry standards for body inclusivity. They believe that influential organizations and magazines should advocate for sample sizes that cater to diverse body types to drive meaningful change.

There is a call for larger fashion houses to take responsibility and lead by example in promoting sustainability and inclusivity. Young designers face pressure to address these issues, but significant change requires action from industry leaders.

Wegovy, a weight management medication, was recently approved in the UK to address obesity-related conditions. This marks a significant development in the availability of weight loss treatments in the country.

In the US, medications like Saxenda and IMCIVREE have also been approved for weight management. While these drugs offer a breakthrough for individuals with genetic or medical weight struggles, there are concerns about potential misuse.

Semaglutide, the key ingredient in Wegovy and other medications, was initially developed for type-2 diabetes treatment. It helps regulate hunger signals to aid weight loss. Clinical trials have shown promising results in weight reduction for individuals using these medications in combination with lifestyle changes.

The European Medicines Agency recently warned of a potential shortage of Ozempic, another Semaglutide-based medication, prompting doctors to prioritize prescriptions for diabetic patients. This shortage may impact individuals seeking weight management treatments.Management’s decision to limit the availability of Ozempic to its indicated population raised concerns about off-label use. To be prescribed appetite suppressants like Ozempic, patients typically need to have a BMI of 27 or higher, along with another weight-related condition or a genetic predisposition towards obesity. However, the popularity of these injectables has been growing in the West.

Some individuals seeking to lose weight for aesthetic reasons are turning to social media and online forums to find ways to bypass the prescription requirements. One woman, in particular, expressed her desire to shed a few pounds before a trip and considered accessing weight loss medication. Despite finding a way to get Wegovy, she decided against it due to the high cost.

Medical professionals stress the importance of using weight loss drugs under supervision and with a valid prescription to avoid complications. These drugs can have side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and gallbladder issues.

The fashion industry has long promoted a size zero ideal, often overlooking health risks and diversity. With the availability of rapid weight loss medications, the pressure to conform to certain beauty standards has increased. There is a call for a more inclusive vision of beauty in the fashion world.

Designers are urged to create garments for diverse body types and showcase them on runways to reflect real-world diversity. It is essential to normalize a broader view of beauty rather than adhering to a singular standard. Designers like Ester Manas and Balthazar Delepierre are advocating for inclusivity through their diverse collections, emphasizing that all body types are welcome at the fashion party.

Leave a Comment

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Share to...