Making Positive Strides in Fashion

Apparel is stepping out in a more relatable style.

Fashion models on a more diverse runway.

(Pare Mahakanok /

In couture, mere mortals walking the runway are a rare sight. Regular people are usually part of the audience and rarely ever the ones modeling the designer collections. But Pierpaolo Piccioli, Valentino’s Italian creative director, has reminded the industry and the whole world that we should never say never. 

By including models of differeing sizes and ages in his most recent show, he demonstrated that challenging fashion conventions is not only possible but even welcome, and enthusiastically celebrated, Vogue pointed out.

A new approach to depicting beauty
By definition, fashion is transitory. It features particular tastes and trends that are widely accepted at a specific moment in time. Piccioli understood this better than anyone and he decided to give the crowds the opportunity to see themselves in haute couture, putting aside the traditional ideal of beauty. 

Many before him have used “plus-size” models in their shows, aiming to represent inclusivity. But the attempts were mainly symbolic, with a few curvy women wearing longer and looser garments than their size zero colleagues, The Guardian explained.

The designer realized that “it was time for a change” and that, as a professional couturier, “the message does not change in its purpose, which is to convey beauty, but in its welcoming expression,” he told The Guardian.

Diversity on the runway
The latest diversity report released by fashion publication, The Fashion Spot, reveals interesting results. 

The report calculates how many models of color, plus-size models, models of different genders, ages, and abilities walked the runways of New York, Paris, London, and Milan each season. The most recent numbers, for which The Fashion Spot examined 168 shows and 1641 models in Fall 2021, reflect a complex mix. 

While the season is the most racially diverse on record, with over 43 percent of models of color, size diversity didn’t follow the same trend. There were just 19 plus-size model castings, making up less than two percent of appearances, which is considerably less than the 34 appearances from the previous season and the 86 castings from Spring 2020, the highest on record. Not only size but also age and gender representation dropped.

It is because of this that initiatives such as the one from Piciolli are so important. They contribute to genuinely meaningful social change, and support a new diversity-friendly paradigm. Encouraging and normalizing the presence of different types of people on the runway contributes to inclusion and acceptance as runway trends set the tone for broader trends.

Efforts to redress the balance continue. The #ChangeFashion rider, a contractual diversity pledge, as the New York Times reports, is a tool encouraging fashion designers to follow through on their commitments to equity and inclusion.

As Valentino’s designer told Vogue: “Since the Middle Ages, there have always been canons of beauty. Once we’d had enough of all the canons, we discovered that humanity is the only canon that’s valid: freedom; be yourself. That’s the real canon.” 

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