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28th February 2017

Ashley Graham: fashion’s game-changer

Following the release of Vogue US’s first ever cover image to feature a plus-size model, Shannon Winterbone discusses a potential turning point in the fashion industry

Fashion can sometimes make us feel like we have to fit a certain size or be a certain weight. This, coupled with what the music and film industries label as ‘ideal’, can become extremely harmful. For example, think of the proliferation of articles telling us why juice cleanses are so beneficial, which celebrities are openly advocating the use of waist trainers on their social media, and how the sales of diet pills continue to increase. Are these fashionable slimming techniques really that healthy?

However it’s worth also considering the rising profiles of plus-size models who are not only changing the way fashion is exhibited on the runway and in glossy magazines, but are also re-imagining the world’s perspective on how we define health and beauty.

Vogue US made a recent breakthrough on inclusivity with its choice to make Ashley Graham the first plus-size model to be on its cover. However, the decision was met with much controversy when Graham was seen to be the only one seemingly covering her body while the other six models were not. Along with Gigi Hadid’s scarily photo-shopped wrist which hid much of Graham’s waist-line, many people took to social media to question why the only plus-size model in the line-up was the one directed to cover her body.

Graham hit back at these comments, however, and stated, “I chose to pose like that.. [sic] no one told me to do anything.” Graham’s assertion that Vogue US did not insist on her posing differently to the other models advocates her stance on how the fashion world is beginning to give a wider variety of women greater visibility. By actively promoting her healthy eating and exercise regime, Graham is an example of how it’s possible to live a healthy lifestyle without being ‘sample size’.

By tackling body positivity issues in TED talks and through various fashion campaigns, Graham has been fighting to break the barriers between ‘sample size’ and sizes which go beyond. Most recently, Graham made history during New York Fashion Week by being the first plus-size model to walk for Michael Kors, which has catapulted the need for the inclusion of plus-size women in the world of high-fashion.

These moves by Michael Kors and Vogue US show how the fashion world is beginning to acknowledge that women come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, and that fashion has to be accommodating for everyone.

By promoting ideas of inclusivity, designer fashion has the ability to make so many women feel good about themselves, and hopefully more brands will follow on from Michael Kors’ excellent example: “I have always waved the flag for a wide range of customers. It’s my job. My job is to make everyone feel great.”

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