When Tim Gunn released his scathing takedown of the fashion industry’s lack of size diversity the Washington Post last week, surely many fashion fans held the same assumptions he did: this year’s New York Fashion Week (NYFW) designers would largely stick to the old norms of Euro-centric size-0 models, and the fashion industry’s narrow focus would continue as usual.
While plenty of designers delivered the status quo, several others grabbed attention by embracing diversity — in age, race, size and gender — down the catwalk. In fact, this fashion week may just stand as the most diverse Fashion Week in its history (more on that later).
Here are eight designers who showed up for their causes and commanded our attention at NYFW last week:
1. Pyer Moss
The models are diverse and the message is deep with this one. Pyer Moss’ past themes have included Black Lives Matter and mental health, and lead designer Kerby Jean-Raymond gives his audience of editors and influencers an education through high fashion. This NYFW, Jean-Raymond digs into corporate greed with “Bernie vs. Bernie,” situating a series of tired cashiers at registers for models to navigate as they clomp up and down the runway in ’80s fat-cat style suits, a letterman’s jacket embroidered with “GREED” and empty exposed pockets.
2. Tracy Reese
A longtime favorite of Anthropologie shoppers, designer Tracy Reese has proclaimed SS17 “a season of inclusive style” and she means it. Her joyful display of women of varying ages, races, shapes and sizes relaxing in the middle of a New York cemetery could give someone serious FOMO. I’ll dance on the grave of exclusive sizing and fashion’s white-centric history with you any time, Tracy.
When a plastic bag grazed his arm while swimming in Ibiza, designer Heron Preston found appreciation for his own city’s strongest: the Department of Sanitation of New York (DSNY). His eco-conscious “UNIFORM” collection, displayed among giant compressed bricks of people’s discarded clothes, is as much a comment on the disposability of fast fashion as it is a tribute to the people who clean up after our messes. The collection features activewear made from upcycled pieces and pays homage to the DSNY, whose nonprofit foundation, New York’s Strongest, will receive a portion of the proceeds.
Unless you’ve been on a serious internet fast lately, you’ve heard that Christian Siriano demonstrates no fear of curves in his clothes. Models of all shapes, sizes, and races rocked his NYFW SS17 collection on the runway, inspired by the Isle of Capri. And it wasn’t just one plus-size model, either — he had five. With such a celebration of diverse female bodies, I have to wonder if his induction into the Council of Fashion Designers for America isn’t a large part of the reason they rolled out diversity guidelines for NYFW this year.
5. Rachel Comey
Diverse ages, races and gender non-conformity graced the streets of New York for Rachel Comey’s NYFW SS17 outdoor showing. Fingers crossed for adding “body types and sizes” to that list next time around, but this is a beautiful showing in its own right.
When a designer’s own motto is “it’s not for you, it’s for everyone,” we know it’s time to pay attention. Designer Telfar Clemens has created unisex garments since 2005, and the Telfar SS17 collection takes the current athleisure trend and strips boring old gender boundaries, leaving room only for fun — for everyone.
Indonesian designer Anniesa Hasibuan’s DJkarta meticulous vision is the stuff of fairytales. Long, glittering capes, high Victorian collars, shimmering metallics, bold statement jewelry — and pearl-studded hijabs. The first designer to show an entire collection of modest wear and hijabs at NYFW (and a stunning display, at that), she commanded the attention of all the major fashion editors. You’d never guess that she’s only shown her designs on the runway for a little more than a year.
Model and acid attack victim Reshma Quereshi opened the show for the Archana Kochhar collection at New York Fashion Week. Quereshi, who was attacked with sulphuric acid two years ago, fronts a campaign by NGO Make Love Not Scars that is working to stop the public sale of corrosive substances. Photo by Mary Altaffer / AP @archanakochharofficial #archanakochhar #reshmaquereshi #nyfw #ss17 #EndAcidSale
Typically in a fashion show, people hold their breath in anticipation of the final look. But when Indian designer Archana Kockhar’s first model appeared on the platform, the crowd cheered. Though the clothing still held attention, Indian model and acid attack victim Reshma Quereshi was the guest of honor, representing Make Love Not Scars, an organization that supports victims of gender-based violence. Acids are used to hurt and permanently disfigure thousands of women each year, and on Kockhar’s catwalk, Quereshi put a face to the survivors and called for a ban on the sale of corrosive substances.