Christian Siriano Reps the Plus-Size Women at New York Fashion Week

Fatalefashion/YouTube screengrab
Fatalefashion/YouTube screengrab

The New York Fashion Week would have been business as usual if it wasn’t for Christian Siriano. The designer, already known for embracing various body shapes through his Lane Bryant partnership (the fall line is coming out they day of this post) and through dressing actresses like Leslie Jones as well as First Lady Michelle Obama, has taken his commitment to body inclusion to the next level. This time, for his Spring/Summer 2017 runway show, he cast five plus-size models to the catwalk.

Check out the social media buzz (and the full show!) for yourself:

Simply put, this kind of fashion show is life-affirming. No hyperbole; as a plus-size woman myself, it truly is life-affirming. For too long, fashion has been in the narrow “must be stick-skinny” box, when 1) women have never only been one size and 2) the majority of women are now within the 16-18 size range. The fact that fashion designers, on the whole, have dedicated themselves to this narrow definition of beauty is mind-boggling, especially when some of the women in their lives, I’m sure, aren’t size 0.

Tim Gunn, design educator, author, and personality from Project Runway, wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post during NYFW. He took the fashion industry to task for “turn[ing] its back on plus-size women.”

I love the American fashion industry, but it has a lot of problems, and one of them is the baffling way it has turned its back on plus-size women. It’s a puzzling conundrum. The average American women now wears between a size 16 and a size 18, according to new research from Washington State University. There are 100 million plus-size women in America, and, for the past three years, they have increased their spending on clothes faster than their straight-size counterparts. There is money to be made here ($20.4 billion, up 17 percent from 2013). But many designers—dripping with disdain, lacking imagination or simply too cowardly to take a risk—still refuse to make close for them.

Gunn also calls certain designers out by name who have said, in so many words, that they didn’t want plus-size women wearing their clothes because they felt plus-size women were ugly.

Enter designers like Siriano, who has taken the opportunity of dressing an underserved market head-on.

When ELLE Magazine asked Siriano as to why more designers don’t make plus-size clothes, Siriano’s comments seemed to echo Gunn, seeming to allude to the fact that some designers just might not want to put in the time commitments to dress women who aren’t sample size

We know the importance of creating inclusive collections. So why can’t more designers make great plus-size clothes?

I think they can. I just think it’s a lot of time and a lot of work. The thing is, if you’re a designer, then you want to constantly push yourself and your designs. When we make a new collection, we’re changing shapes, we’re changing patterns. We get a dress on a model, and it’s our first time seeing what the dress really looks like a woman’s body. And even with traditional fashion models, where it’s their job to be a certain size and a certain proportion, you have to make adjustments once you see your clothes on a real live person. Now imagine doing that with more sizes, more proportions. You really have to play with every piece. So timing is a big part of it. You have to make the time. But having said all that, we made it work. We found the time and we put in the effort because being a label that different women can wear is really important to us.

So the trick is having the time?

Honestly, I think the “trick” is you have to really want to do it. You’re embracing more of the world. Which is great. We’re all in this together, you know? And the models in the show who are “plus size,” they’re not in a special place, they’re now wearing differently styled outfits. They’re just beautiful girls who are in the show, like normal. Everything’s normal. That’s how it should be!

(From my point of view, it sounds like he’s simply saying they’re lazy.)

Gunn is right; there’s a lot of money to be made here, and Siriano, the most successful Project Runway alum because of his business acumen, certainly has his business sense attuned to this void and is using it to differentiate himself and endear himself to a larger part of the market.

But that doesn’t mean his shrewdness is something to balk at. There is still a thoughtfulness to Siriano’s decision to cater to a wider selection of body types. As he’s said himself, he likes dressing women of all sizes and wants every woman to look and feel beautiful. If he just wanted to make money, he could do like Target and make plus-size sacks. But he’s actually giving women choices, style, and a voice in the fashion world. Siriano is allowing plus-size women to feel like they do matter in fashion and that they do deserve to feel beautiful. Simultaneously, he’s giving his fellow fashion designers the middle finger, daring them to what he’s doing for plus-size women. It’s a challenge that I hope more fashion designers take up. As Gunn says in his op-ed, “Designers, make it work.”

What do you think of Siriano’s NYFW showing? Give your opinions in the comments section below!