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New York Fashion Week sees more diversity, equity, and inclusion on the runways

By Kristopher Fraser


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Image: Tommy Hilfiger

Diversity, equity, and inclusion have been hot topics in fashion for the past several years, ranging from the representation of more plus-size models to hiring more minority talent. This season, diversity and inclusion were all the rage on the runways, with designers and organizations fostering space for racial minorities, various body types, and looking beyond the able-bodied.

This year, one of the shows kicking off the day before New York Fashion Week officially began was Double Take, a show that came about as a partnership between the spinal muscular atrophy community, Open Style Lab, a nonprofit organization for accessible fashion, and Genentech, a biotech company aimed at research for life-threatening diseases. The goal of the runway show was to bring awareness to the adaptive fashion movement, further diversifying the runways.

New York Fashion Week spring/summer 2023 more diverse than ever

The majority of models in the Double Take show were members of the SMA community themselves, and in some cases were joined by able-bodied parents or partners who were advocates for the SMA community.

“I just love seeing that my daughter has a place in the fashion industry,” said Amber-Joy Watkins, whose young daughter, Celine Domalski, walked the show alongside her. “It’s a dream come true for us. While my daughter doesn’t have a lot of severe physical limitations when it comes to dressing, she is very petite for her size, and that’s where we run into issues. The dress she walked the runway in is custom-made to fit her petite size. It’s been amazing to be part of this process and have her have a dress that fits her the way clothes are supposed to fit.”

Adam Pryor, a member of Genentech’s corporate relations department, told FashionUnited, “Our company wanted to go beyond just the people we provide medicine for. Genentech has a program called SMA My Way committed to supporting the SMA community. We just really want to make it, so these individuals are seen beyond their disabilities and for their creativity and passions, and fashion rings true to that.”

Image: Genentech

This New York Fashion Week has been a milestone for plus-size inclusivity as well. Private Policy showcased plus models on their runways, and Christian Siriano had his usual inclusion of plus-size supermodels.

One of the biggest names highlighting plus-size models though was Tommy Hilfiger, who had one of the most talked about shows so far this New York Fashion Week. Hilfiger’s show took place at Skyline Drive-In in Brooklyn, New York, and featured not only his latest collection and Richard Quinn collaboration, but also top plus-size models Ashley Graham and Paloma Elsesser.

While plus-size female models have long been a discussion and are seeing more representation on New York Fashion Week’s runways, the men were often left out of the conversation and ignored. That was until Tommy Hilfiger’s show Sunday night.

Hilfiger had not one, but two plus-size male models walk his runways, including Chad J who was met with applause walking the runway.

Tommy also made strives for racial diversity with Native American model and activist Quannah Chasinghorse walking his show. As one of the most notable names in America, Hilfiger was one designer whose show was truly reflective of all Americans.

This year for the first time, 25 percent of the designers represented on the CFDA fashion calendar are Black. Prior to New York Fashion Week officially starting, Fern Mallis, considered the “godmother of New York Fashion Week,” described this upcoming season as “back with a vengeance” at the FIT Couture Council luncheon. So far, it’s proven such, as well as being a turning point in American fashion for diversity.

Double Take
New York Fashion Week
Tommy Hilfiger