Model fronts push for diversity in fashion

Model Ashley Graham walking the runway for Addition Elle at New York Fashion Week.
Model Ashley Graham walking the runway for Addition Elle at New York Fashion Week.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • New York's fashion world just scored an A-plus in a test of whether it can be a greater role model for diversity and inclusivity.

It was earned when plus-size model Ashley Graham, who is going stratospheric for breaking down barriers in the fashion industry, powered down the runway on Monday, celebrating curves in her latest lingerie collection.

The 29-year-old sensation from Nebraska showcased sexy black and green underwear in her latest link-up with Canadian brand Addition Elle, whose day-five Fashion Week show featured only plus-size models.

The show got a rock-star reception from the audience, many of them larger women who were triumphant that the notoriously snooty world of fashion is finally starting to embrace customers of all shapes and sizes.

"Of course I do," Graham said backstage when asked if she still gets nervous before hitting the runway, decked out in a matching green and black bra and knicker set.

"But it's fun."

Model Ashley Graham walking the runway for Addition Elle at New York Fashion Week.
Model Ashley Graham walking the runway for Addition Elle at New York Fashion Week. PHOTO: REUTERS

In addition to collaborating with the plus-size label Addition Elle, the model is a spokesman for self-confidence and positive body image for women, urging them to embrace curves, cellulite and diversity.

"Every season, I think about supportive lingerie that is going to be something that I want to put in my wardrobe," said a bubbly Graham.

"I wanted colour, I wanted detail," she added.

"Central to this collection, I wanted (wearers) to feel sexy for (their) everyday bra."

Last year, she became the first plus-size model to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine. She has appeared on the cover of Vogue magazine and was recently a judge on long-running TV series America's Next Top Model.

"You would think it's a lot of pressure, but it's not because I am literally just being myself," she said.

"My mother always told me, 'Your (two younger) sisters are always looking up to you, you are their role model.'

"So I just think of my fans and everybody's reaching out and saying thank you as my sisters."

Graham has sashayed on the catwalk for two seasons running for Nepalese-American designer Prabal Gurung, appearing in his Sunday night show alongside the likes of super slim supermodel Gigi Hadid.

"Fantastic," she said of the experience. "He really has designed for women regardless of your body shape. He's an amazing designer."

Sarah Chiwaya, 33, a plus-size fashion blogger and editor in the front row at Addition Elle, said she was thrilled to see several full shows featuring plus-size models this season.

"I've been covering fashion week for about four years and it's usually only one body shape and size," she revealed.

"She is an absolute sweetheart," added Chiwaya of Graham.

"I love seeing what she's done. She's really brought a spotlight to a lot of things."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2017, with the headline 'Model fronts push for diversity in fashion'. Print Edition | Subscribe