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Brief Published: 28 Sep 2016

'No Normal' at NYFW S/S 17

Clockwise L-R Chromat S/S 17, Tome S/S 17, Christian Siriano S/S 17, Gypsy Sport S/S 17

As diversity and inclusivity increasingly become part of the conversation around Fashion Weeks, designers that don’t embrace evolving notions of beauty risk falling out of sync with the “no normal” generation.

February 2016’s A/W 16/17 New York Fashion Week was the most ethnically diverse to date (despite 68.1% of models being white, according to Fashion Spot), and although racial diversity was slightly down on the S/S 17 catwalks this month (69.9% white and 30.1% non-white), body positivity was up. Fashion Spot’s new report states that 16 plus-size models walked in shows, and eight trans models were cast.

More designers are featuring unconventional models, with some brands staking a claim on extreme inclusivity. Brooklyn-based athletic-wear brand Chromat featured amputee Lauren Wasser, plus-size, trans and ethnically diverse models. Futuristic blue eyeliner, nose rings and sectioned hair were among the beauty looks from make-up artist Fatima Thomas, whose manifesto was “strength, movement, speed”.

Chromat designer Becca McCharen was also part of the Creative Courage: Finding the Authentic Voice of Brands panel at Advertising Week in New York this week. She commented: "When people [using] social media can identify themselves in the clothes, they feel they’re being given permission to wear the clothes. This has opened the brand up to so many more consumers.”

Transgender model Torraine Futurum walked the Barragán, Vaquera and Gypsy Sport shows – the latter of which also included New York underground fashion influencer Maya Monés, African-American albino model Diandra Forrest and shaven-headed model/rapper Slick Woods.

For more on how young millennial and Gen Z consumers are ignoring 'normal' standards prescribed by the media and beauty industries, see Gender-Fluid Generation: Beauty Attitudes. Meanwhile, FTL Moda, the fashion week production company that has put the focus on models with disabilities, featured Reshma Quereshi in its show. The Indian model was scarred in an acid attack.

Christian Siriano, who has a new collaboration with Lane Bryant, won kudos for including five plus-sized models – the first time he has cast plus-sized women on the catwalk. Coinciding with NYFW, fashion consultant and TV personality Tim Gunn wrote a widely shared column criticising the industry for continuing to ignore this demographic. Meanwhile, Opening Ceremony labelled its show a “Pageant of the People”, describing it as “a space where unconventional beauty – and ideas – are celebrated”.

J. Crew cast a diverse mix of friends of the brand and employees as models, ranging in age from 13 to 70, while Tracy Reese’s S/S 17 garden party presentation featured “real” women of all sizes and ages. Older model Jacky O’Shaughnessy (aged 64) walked Tome’s diverse runway ("a line #madebywomen for #EVERYWOMAN”) to an enthusiastic response on Instagram, clad in Diane Kendal’s feathery white MAC make-up inspired by “tribal, individualised, ceremonial faces”.

In related news, fashion and lifestyle platform Refinery 29 has announced The 67% Project – a new initiative in association with Getty Images – to make plus-size women less ‘niche’ and more mainstream. During launch week, 67% of the people featured on the website and its social media channels will be plus-size, reflecting the 67% of US women sized 14-34, as highlighted by Lane Bryant’s #PlusIsEqual campaign. And Nashville e-commerce brand Elizabeth Suzann will now show every item of clothing in its Signature Collection on models who represent every size in which the item is available.

For more on these themes, see No Normal: Post-Diversity Marketing, and The New Fashion Landscape Industry Trend reports Size Matters, The Gender Agenda and Advanced Aesthetics.