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The rise of real women in fashion

The rise of real women in fashion

The sartorially savvy amongst you may have heard our Fashion Editor Georgina Yates mention a recent fashion phenomenon during our February podcast – ‘the rise of the real’. This is an emerging trend for designers to use models who actually represent the consumers of their products, rather than the youthful, impossibly slender, typically white girls whom the industry previously insisted was the only possible image of beauty.

The rebellion against this rigid ideal has been slowly strengthening in recent years, and with 2015 already having seen luxury house Céline appoint 80 year old author Joan Didion as the face of their brand, the future looks bright for fashion diversity. With London Fashion Week now firmly in our sights, we’re running through our favourite moments in the ‘rise of the real’.

Big Beautiful Women

Back in 2010 Gossip singer Beth Ditto, who has previously called Karl Lagerfeld (Chanel) “a miserable little man” and Kate Moss “boring as hell”, took to the Paris catwalk to model for legendary French designer Jean Paul Gaultier.  As a UK size 28 and self defined “fat feminist lesbian”, Ditto doesn’t fit the typical fashion week bill – but by God, did she work it. Plus sized models in the fashion world are at their largest a size 14 so Ditto’s fabulous, confident walk made for a refreshing runway sight. In thanks for her star turn, Gaultier also designed Ditto’s wedding dress in 2013. Speaking about his choice, the designer said “I always thought that personality was more important than just the look, and that has influenced my choice of models.” A man after our own hearts!



Until 2014, supermodel Andreja Pejić was billed as an androgynous male model. Towards the end of the year however, she opened up publically about her sex reassignment surgery and life as a trans woman, saying “to be percieved as what you say you are is a basic human right.” Another high profile trans model, Lea T, became the face of beauty brand Redken in November last year, and consequently made history by becoming the first trans model to represent a global cosmetics brand. Lea T was discovered by the creative director of Givenchy, Riccardo Tisci, and remains the designer’s muse today.



Last year’s New York Fashion Week saw Danielle Sheypuk roll down the runway and become the event’s first ever model in a wheelchair. Wearing designs by Carrie Hammer, Sheypuk has since received attention worldwide. When asked if she had worried that featuring a disabled model would have negative consequences for her brand, Hammer replied “I really didn’t care.” The same year, Russian designer Sabina Gorelik went one step further, creating a collection specifically for people with physical disabilities as part of a project entitled ‘models without borders.’


Age Concern

JAcky O'Shaughnessy American Apparel

Convincing the fashion world that life goes on after 25 is no mean feat. 75-year-old German supermodel Verushka however did just that, killing the catwalk for Giles Deacon back in 2010. Following suit, American Apparel hired 62 year old Jacky O’Shaughnessy in 2014 as their latest lingerie model and her couldn’t-care-less attitude is infectious – “I was handed the lace underwear, [and] it was like yeah, sure, let me have it…When people talk about age appropriate hairstyles, and age appropriate dressing, well, whose age? And who are you?”


Black Power

While in some areas the fashion world is making great leaps towards diversity, in others there is still some way to go. During New York Fashion Week 2014, 78.69% of the models were white, despite walking in a city where white Caucasians make up only 45% of the population. British supermodel Jourdan Dunn became the first black woman to have a solo Vogue cover in 12 years for the February 2015 issue, and is particularly vocal on the issue of racial diversity. “The people who control the industry…say if you have a black face on a magazine cover it won’t sell, but there’s no real evidence for that. It’s lazy.” Well said!

With such encouraging movement towards diversity across the fashion pack, let’s hope London Fashion Week ups its game, displaying models of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities, so that it might better begin to reach out to the audience it is always walking towards.

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