Today marks the launch of London Fashion Week – and with buzzwords like “diversity” and “inclusivity” everywhere, you could easily assume that plus-size representation is at an all-time high. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case. When it comes to walking the (cat)walk, many shows simply don’t deliver. The Fashion Spot’s latest diversity report reveals that, instead of increasing like it had been in previous years, the quantity of plus-size representation on the runway is actually on the decline.
This season, one blogger has taken diversity into her own hands using the hashtag #FatAtFashionWeek. Kellie Brown, the hashtag’s creator, is the New York-based blogger and YouTuber behind And I Get Dressed. “I’m starting a new hashtag #FatAtFashionWeek We are here, we work in this industry, we get it, we are leaders and consumers,” the Fashion Week veteran shared in her Instagram post:
In an industry that constantly sells thinness as aspirational and treats “fat” like a four-letter word, this hashtag is making waves in the best possible way. By using the word “fat” instead of gentler, more socially acceptable terms like curvy or plus-size, the hashtag demands an immediate reaction.
While many people attach negative connotations to the word fat, it’s actually a term preferred by many bloggers, academics and activists. When people who wear plus sizes refer to themselves as fat, they are reclaiming a word that was intended to harm them. This removes any negativity, and fat becomes a neutral descriptor that is no more rude than short, tall or brunette.
When Kellie says, “we are here, we work in this industry”, she makes a brilliant point. Most coverage of size diversity focuses solely on the number of plus-size models walking in runway shows. This is problematic for three reasons.
Firstly, browsing a line-up of curvy models reveals chiseled jawlines, abs, protruding collar bones and very few women wearing larger than a size 16. This is certainly a contrast to the standard ultra-slim fashion model, but it doesn’t reflect the average plus-size consumer. Secondly, representation of fat women is rarely intersectional. For example, a curvy model walking the runway is likely to be a white, able-bodied, hourglass shaped, cisgender woman. It’s no coincidence that the hashtag was created by a woman who exists at the intersection of fatness and blackness, because she understands what it’s like to not be represented in both of those aspects. Finally, fat women should get to see themselves represented in all aspects of Fashion Week. That includes designers, reporters, photographers, event guests and, maybe most importantly, street style.
With the exception of an InStyle gallery and a Yahoo! Style gallery, there is absolutely no size diversity when it comes to street style. According to a recent study, the UK plus-size clothing market is worth an estimated £6.6bn, which represents 13% of the entire clothing, footwear and accessories market. The same study indicates that approximately 30% of the UK population wears plus-size clothing, yet when a curvy model is featured on the cover of Cosmopolitan, the health-concern trolls come out with torches and pitchforks at the ready.
Street-style size diversity is exactly what we need right now, and that’s precisely what #FatAtFashionWeek delivers. It enables women to gain style inspiration, scope out new garments to try and pick up tips on where to shop. Most importantly, it reminds fat fashionistas that they’re beautiful, they’re rocking it and they’re not alone.
At publication, the hashtag has over 250 posts featuring fashionable fat folks involved in all aspects of fashion week: bloggers, writers, photographers and more. “NYC Fashion Week just ended but now there is London, Paris, and Milan. Guess what, there are boss fat babes attending and working those shows and events too! International lovers pls rep so hard for us ???❤️” Brown writes. Now let’s get out there and give her what she asked for.