7 Positive Strides NYFW Made This Season

This season, many designers took the opportunity to prove that inclusivity matters.


New York Fashion Week (NYFW) allows designers to show off their latest collections, but it also gives them a platform to make a statement. This season, many designers took the opportunity to prove inclusivity matters, and a diverse cast of runway models is far more interesting than a stereotypical one. 

Let's not get ahead of ourselves. There's still much work to be done as the vast majority of collections were still modeled by conventional models — tall, extremely thin, White, and able-bodied. Several designers, however, made positive strides this season by casting people not typically represented on the runway — breast cancer survivors, refugees, immigrants, transgender models, plus-size models, and differently-abled models, to name a few. 

Hopefully, others in the fashion industry will take notice and do their part to promote diversity in their work. We hope more people feel inspired and welcome to participate in the industry.

1. Breast cancer survivors and patients walked the runway.

During one of the most inspiring shows of the week, breast cancer survivors and patients walked the runway for AnaOno Intimates' spring/summer 2017 collection. The collection has a range of lingerie and loungewear designed for them by a breast cancer survivor. All proceeds from the show went to #Cancerland, a New York-based non-profit organization dedicated to providing support to women battling the disease. 

Ericka Hart, a breast cancer survivor who had a double mastectomy, participated in the runway show. Hart has been outspoken about her battle with the disease affected her body image. While she now feels comfortable in her post-breast cancer body, many breast cancer survivors and patients have a difficult time coping with changes in their appearance as a result of their treatment. This runway show helps to show those women that you can feel sexy and happy with your body during and after living with breast cancer. 

2. A Muslim refugee walked Kanye West's runway wearing her hijab.

Nineteen-year-old Somali-American model Halima Aden, who moved from a refugee camp in Kenya to the United States, made her NYFW debut during Kanye West's Yeezy Season 5 show. Aden walked confidently down the runway wearing her hijab and she completely slayed. In fact, Vogue is calling her "the show's most talked-about new face." 

Alden previously made headlines last November when she became the first contestant to wear a hijab and a burkini in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant.

Due to fear and misinformation, many people believe that refugees pose a violent threat. Alden's rise to runway fame helps to bring awareness to refugees as well as break down barriers for hijab-wearing women

3. Plus-size models were styled no differently than the rest of the models on the runway.

Plus-size models have certainly made appearances at NYFW in the past. Too often, plus-size models are more of a novelty than a genuine push toward inclusion. The clothes they're put in are often meant to conceal their size. 

But this year was different. Ashley Graham, who modeled for Michael Kors, and Candice Huffine, who walked the runway for Prabal Gurung, were styled just like the straight-sized models in their respective shows.

Designer Christian Siriano, who has been outspoken about diversity in the fashion industry, included a diverse group of models ranging from size 2 to size 16 in his show. Ten of the models who strutted down his catwalk were plus-size. His show proves you don't need to have stereotypically thin models to have an incredible and memorable show. 

4. The world's first professional model with Down syndrome launched her own label at NYFW.

Teenager Madeline Stuart, who has Down syndrome, has been an inspiration since she first made headlines in 2015. In the past two years, she's managed to land a campaign for the fashion company everMaya, walk at NYFW 2015, became the world's first professional model with Down syndrome, and just launched a clothing line of her own. 

During NYFW 2017, she debuted her first collection for her label 21 Reasons Why. "The name of her brand was inspired by her passion to find reasons to better ourselves, be more inclusive, healthier, and why we should celebrate life, whilst taking pride in her 21st chromosome," according the brand's website. "Maddy's mission is to continue to spread her message of inclusion; that there are no boundaries regardless of your age, size, race, height, or disability." 

Stuart is helping to show girls and women everywhere that a disability doesn't have to keep you from becoming a model, designer, or entrepreneur. 

5. This Muslim designer casted only immigrant models in her NYFW show.

Indonesian designer Anniesa Hasibuan used her show as an opportunity to respond to the anti-immigrant policies currently facing the U.S. She made a powerful statement by exclusively casting immigrants and second-generation children of immigrants to model her collection at NYFW. 

The models were even interviewed during the casting process about their thoughts on politics including President Donald Trump's executive order to bar citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for at least 90 days.

Last season, Hasibuan made history during NYFW by including hijabs in every single one of her looks during her runway show. She made the same decision during this show, too. 

"This show was the opportunity to show that Islam is beautiful," Hasibuan told ELLE. "I believe everyone should be presented with equal opportunities, especially if he or she has passion, talents, and skills, because not all immigrants are 'bad.' We've proved they are beautiful and a great contribution to the States."

6. Mara Hoffman invited the Women's March organizers to open her runway show.

Mara Hoffman's NYFW show was dedicated to celebrating and empowering women. She wanted her show to represent the strength, hard work, and community of women. It sent the message that politics and activism have a place in fashion. 

"This show is inspired by the women whose songs are not yet sung, the allies, the named, and the nameless. I dedicate this to the women who are constantly creating in the name of change," Hoffman wrote in the show's program. 

The designer invited the founders of the Women's March on Washington — Linda Sarsour, Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory, and Carmen Perez — to make the opening remarks at her show

"Unity, love and strength, with a message that women's rights are human rights. We stand together in solidarity, recognizing that our vibrant and diverse community are the strength of our country. Hear our voice," Perez said. 

7. Transgender models strutted down Stevie Boi’s runway.

Designer Stevie Boi, a Baltimore-based designer known for his luxury eyewear designs, launched his new collection with models from the LGBTQ community. 

Three of the models to walk his runway, Dominique Jackson, Claudia Charriez and Rain, are transgender. All of them are represented by Slay Model Management, a modeling agency that represents transgender models specifically.  

"Trans models have always been around, and now there's a draw to us," Jackson told NBC

Let's hope we see even more inclusion and diversity in the fashion industry as we move forward.


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