the woman
by Elizabeth Hazard



The 2017 fashion runway saw its fair share of color, flair, and couture the past few weeks throughout New York, Milan and Paris. This past season, though, more than trends were being set on the catwalk. 2017 also set a bold statement for diversity and inclusiveness in the industry, as we saw countless races, ages, and body types walk the runway in ultimate style.

While the modeling industry has typically been known to shy away from models over the age of 30 for most major runway shows, this season, all ages were represented across a wide mix of designers. One designer who took a notably all-encompassing approach to his casting is Dries Van Noten. In fact, more than half of the models cast in this, his 100th fashion show, were over the age of 30. And these were no small names either.

Alek Wek, came out of retirement at 39 to walk for the French designer, and was joined by the likes of Caroline de Maigret at 42, Yasmine Warsame at 40, Amber Valletta at 43, Nadja Auermann at 45, and Carolyn Murphy at 42. Van Noted wasn't the only designer to include "older" models in their shows. Simone Rocha also presented an age-has-no-limits show with models like Benedetta Barzini, Jan de Villeneuve, Marie-Sophie Wilson-Carr, Audrey Marnay, Adwoa Aboah, and Jamie Bochert. At 65 years young, model Jacky O'Shaughnessy walked at Tome, and ever-the-icon model Carmen Dell'Orefice, 85, closed the Guo Pei show in Paris.

Beyond age, models of different sizes also had their moment in the spotlight, a spotlight typically reserved for the sample size model. Current fashion It Girl Ashley Graham made history as she made her runway debut at Michael Kors and became the first plus-size model to walk for the designer. Not to be outdone, Prabal Gurung chose his runway show to debut his new Lane Bryant collaboration on plus-size models Candice Huffine and Marquita Print. Speaking on the inclusiveness of the collection, Gurung said, "With all the things happening around us, I could not justify to myself the idea 'Let me just make pretty clothes, escapist fare,'" He added, "I realize I have an audience, and a platform."

Models of an array of skin colors were more widely represented than in the past this 2017 season. Marc Jacobs cast more than half of his show with black models for his NYFW presentation. Gypsy Sport, a brand known for its diverse castings, presented their latest line with 87 percent models of color, as well as one model with albinism and another with vitiligo. Winnie Harlow, a Canadian model, who also suffers from vitiligo, ruled the runway for various designers in London, Paris, New York and Milan this season.

While models of age, color and skin types were present in ample shows in 2017, this past fashion season saw the most revolutionary moment with the welcoming presence of transgender models.

Gisele Alicea walked for The Blonds, Avie Acosta strutted for Philipp Plein and Marc Jacobs, and models Monés and Dulce took the runway for Gypsy Sport. The brand Chromat, who also had a cast comprised of 77% black models, cast five transgender models: Monés, Carmen Carrera, Aurel Haize Odogbo, Leyna Bloom and Juliana Huxtable.

J.Crew took a bold approach in once again casting a mix of real people. Models included everyone from a yoga teacher, the mother of a stylist, and even Sandra Bernhard. Calling Creative Director Jenna Lyons "the Queen of Diversity," the comedian noted, "It's important that everyone be represented." Also speaking of the new inclusiveness of the industry Ivan Bart, President of IMG Models, said, "These days we're pushing to include in our roster people of all ages, races, sizes, body types and genders."

What this means for the everyday woman is that fashion is taking on a more realistic, easy-to-resonate with voice and face to an industry that was once known for setting some unrealistic standards. It means that fashion is now recognizing all the different shapes, sizes and ages our world is made of. Now, when women like you and me look at a runway, we can see something we recognize. Now, when women like us step into a fitting room or lust after that coveted piece from a runway show, it’s something we won’t be afraid to shop for or even take that bolder step of trying a piece on. Because, as we saw on several runways this season, these fashions are in fact now made for you and me. So, go ahead, and dare to push your boundaries. Fashion designers certainly weren’t afraid to.

In 2017 the runway has never looked more colorful, diverse and ready to shine. And this has nothing to do with the clothing designs. A new model took shape this past season, and that model represents everyone.

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