© Gustavo Villar for Lingerie Talk
Face it, this is Ashley Graham‘s world and we’re just living in it.
Less than 24 hours after literally stopping traffic in Times Square as a member of Lane Bryant‘s #PlusIsEqual modeling squad, the size 16 supermodel was the centre of attention again yesterday as she took over a New York Fashion Week runway to promote her own line of designer lingerie for curvy women.
The setting was a midtown Manhattan showroom, but for a brief moment yesterday it was the pinnacle of the international fashion world. Sorry Cara, Karlie and Kendall, but there’s not a bigger fashion model in the world right now than Ashley Graham.
And by “bigger” we mean more in-demand, more inspirational, more impactful and more admired.
The occasion was the appearance of plus-size retailer Addition Elle on the KIA Style360 fashion week platform, where the Canadian brand introduced a new womenswear collections as well as the Ashley Graham designer lingerie line, which has been available in Canada for two years and debuted this month at Nordstrom in the U.S.
But all eyes were on Ashley, the biggest name in an historic fashion week in which plus-size models commanded more attention (and got more work) than ever before (Sabina Karlsson is having a big week, too, walking for Lane Bryant, Chromat and Addition Elle.)
The surge in interest in alternative body sizes follows years of complaints about the lack of diversity in fashion modeling and the industry’s persistent promotion of unrealistic and unrepresentative beauty standards. But a new ethic of inclusivity in fashion marketing is emerging and, in addition to curvy models, recent catwalks have featured disabled models, transgender models and many others whose attributes deviate from the fashion industry’s narrow definition of beauty.
For Ashley, yesterday’s show sets up an interesting and unprecedented competitive scenario: the same spokesmodel leading marketing and social media campaigns at the same time for competing retailers — Lane Bryant‘s #PlusIsEqual, a powerful call to action for equality; and Addition Elle‘s #IAmSizeSexy, a defiant affirmation aimed at curvier women who have typically been excluded from conversations about seductive fashion.
For both brands, though, Ashley — who arguably triggered the plus-size model uprising in 2010 when her TV ad for Lane Bryant was banned by American Idol — is their golden girl.
Few supermodels of any size, race or background have had the kind of year Ashley has. Her ads in both Sports Illustrated‘s Swimsuit Edition and Vogue‘s September issue called attention to the fact that models of her size have to pay to be included in those industry bibles. Her rousing Ted Talk (above) about “My Size” was one of the most-viewed of the year. And when a douchey weight-loss company infuriated UK women with their “Are you beach body ready?” ads, Ashley and Swimsuits 4 All ran their own sexy advert to shut them up.
An almost constant media fixture over the past year, Ashley has become the most visible and articulate advocate for plus-size women in the fashion industry, a role that has also been taken on by Robyn Lawley, Candice Huffine, Tess Holliday and many others (including the ALDA group of activist-models of which Ashley is a member).
In fact, Ashley no longer describes herself as just a fashion model. She bills herself as designer, motivational speaker, humanitarian and, most importantly, an “active role model” who is “proactively taking charge to empower young women and models by directing her own life.”
That’s also what distinguishes the plus-size segment of the fashion industry from all others — to break down barriers, change attitudes and create work opportunities, models need to become vocal advocates for themselves and other women like them. Most size 0 runway models just have to smile and look good; plus-size models have to represent.
Below we have a full gallery of images from the Addition Elle catwalk yesterday, showing the boudoir-themed lingerie styles from Ashley’s fall collection for the Canadian brand.
Ashley has stated that she aspires to build the kind of multi-platform fashion empire created by Tyra, Heidi and other supermodels. Given that this will be the 7th collection she has fronted and designed in the past two years for Addition Elle, don’t be against her achieving that goal.
All Photos © Gustavo Villar for Lingerie Talk