Throughout the years, the fashion industry has been dominated by a lack of diversity. The failure to include a variety of race, gender and size has become more and more prominent in a media age where the individual and the notion of ‘normativity’ has been questioned. But there are some individuals who stand out amongst the crowd in their fight for diversity on the runway, and whose actions have proved time and time again that ‘normativity’ is something to be questioned and deciphered. Here are only a tiny portion of such individuals paving the way for a more diverse, fashionable future:
Plus size model and LGTBQ+ activist Khrystyana Kazakova first made headlines when starring in ‘America’s Next Top Model’s’ Cycle 24, the season that promised to deliver its ‘most diverse group’ of women ever seen in the show’s previous 22 seasons. Becoming one of the season’s finalist, Khrystyana showed the fashion world what it was missing by excluding plus size women from the runway’s narrative. Her graceful professionalism; positive attitude and photographic beauty made her a firm fan, and judge favourite, and she has since become a firm member of the modelling community as a New York City based model for ‘Milk Management’.
Khrystyana showed the fashion world what it was missing
Since ‘ANTM24’, Khrystyana has set her sights far farther than the inclusivity of plus size women on the catwalk by including all humans on the catwalk. ‘The Real Catwalk’ is a pop-up fashion show and activist project set up by Khrystyana herself in order to spread a “message of self-love and acceptance for everyone to celebrate” (Nylon). The guerilla-style show tours around cities all over the world including London, New York City, Paris and LA and gives men, women, as well as disabled men, women, queer, trans and a whole variety of humans the opportunity to strut their stuff in public and celebrate themselves in all their glory as a kind of ‘eff you’ to the narrow mindedness of the fashion world.
Khrystyana has made huge bounds in creating awareness for body positivity, body acceptance and greater diversity within the industry itself. She is definitely a woman to watch.
Ashley Nell Tipton
Ashley Nell Tipton first gained popularity after winning season 14 of America’s ‘Project Runway’, being the first contestant ever on the show to include all plus size models in her final catwalk of the show. Ashley has since launched her own plus size brand and first line of clothing in 2018 after collaborating with American chainstore ‘JC Penney’ over the last two years to introduce a more everyday plus size collection for “women that extend past straight size” (Bustle).
Beauty and fashion is not pain!
Her new line is designed to be flattering on all plus sized women as “I was focused on how the pieces move and how they’d work for different body types. I wanted to be able to accommodate everyone, and I wanted everyone to be comfortable. Beauty and fashion is not pain!” (Glamour). When discussing her mid-range pricing on her clothing she said that “there aren’t many brands that do basic wardrobe staples well”, alluding to the fact that many plus size brands favour cheaper materials over more expensive ones (Glamour). Tipton relates well to the dilemma of plus size sizing in the fashion industry, having gone through weight loss surgery herself due to health issues and has since said that her new line is “a line of items that I see in ‘regular sizes’ and dreamt of wearing myself” (Glamour).
Tipton has proved that plus size clothing does not have to be modest and unflattering, but can be risque and beautifully executed. When talking about future concerns, she has since drawn her sights to the possibility of future plus size men and children lines “to fill the gaps of the plus-size industry—it shouldn’t just stop at women’s” (Glamour). Tipton creates the change we wish to see within designer and plus size tailored clothing.
Nikita Dragun (otherwise known by her alias ‘Mama Dragun’ on her YouTube channel) is a transgender makeup artist and beauty guru who posts fashion, makeup and beauty tips as well as openly honest content surrounding her transition and life experiences on her YouTube channel. Nikita describes herself as a feminist and LGBTQ+ activist who has since garnered an over two million subscribers audience.
But how does she fit into the fashion industry?
Nikita has proven that trans women can fit anywhere into the industry and do so successfully. She has collaborated with and modelled for beauty brands such as ‘Jeffree Star Cosmetics’ as well as for designer Marco Morante, owner of underwear brand ‘Marco Marco’. Morante’s 2018 New York Fashion Week catwalk show, ‘The Marco Marco Show’, inspired worldwide interest and applause after the designe’s decision to include an all-trans modelling cast on his runway, with Marco saying in an interview with ‘Mic’ that “I wanted to create a space to celebrate trans bodies. This was an opportunity for their presence to be undeniable and reinforce that trans is beautiful.” (Attitude).
transgender men and women can belong within the idea of ‘fantasy’
Nikita has also famously clapped back at lingerie powerhouse ‘Victoria’s Secret’ after their controversial interview with Vogue in November 2018. Ed Razek, the company’s Chief Marketing Officer, justified his decision to not include plus-size or transgender models within the brand’s shows because “Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should…Because the show is a fantasy” (Cosmopolitan). In response to Razek’s controversial comments; Nikita’s own graceful, beautiful and sexy ‘Victoria’s Secret’ Ad-style video proved that transgender men and women can belong within the lingerie brand’s idea of ‘fantasy’ and Razek has since issued an apology in response to his insensitive comments towards transgender models (Insider).
With diversity activists like these, perhaps we can now begin to question: who needs normal on the runway?