The Push For an Inclusive Runway Starts at Fashion School

“These additions are definitely a plus but I don’t think it’s enough to provide the students with these resources and just say, ‘Oh, you can design for larger sizes if you want to,’ because it puts the work on the student to learn how to grade and that makes it really easy for students to choose to opt out because it’s extra work and there’s already so much regular coursework,” Palucci says. “So I think it should really be integrated into the studies and not treated as an isolated thing.”

Similarly, another recent graduate of FIT, Tina Zhvania, says she mostly learned about designing for larger bodies through creating clothes for herself. She agrees that most of the implementation of diversity falls on the students to speak out on what they’d like to explore. “Students would just try to tell their professors that they wanted to explore other body types. Some of them would be understanding like ‘okay, if you want to do this, this is how you do it.’ But it was generally that you had to have a nice professor who was willing to teach you.”

“Plus-size forms are available through a checkout system to students who are taking advanced courses that support the exploration of different body shapes,” a FIT representative told Teen Vogue, adding that many of their design faculty have experience in this market segment. When asked whether the school would consider plus-size focused coursework, the representative did not mention any such curriculum in the works.

Over at Parsons School of Design, Senior Ahmrii Johnson shares that there currently aren’t any specific courses for plus-size design, though that appears to be changing. A representative for Parsons told Teen Vogue that the school recently added Dr. Leila Kelleher, a plus-size pattern making specialist and designer, to their faculty and that they also “will be offering a course in Spring 2023 that specifically focuses on creating fashion for larger bodies from both a social-cultural and technical point of view.” They added that they are “working to center plus-size fashion as fundamental and foundational learning.”

Since these changes are new, past students—and soon-to-be graduating students—have missed out on this shift. Johnson says,“I did not have the opportunity to design plus-size garments until my apprenticeship with Danielle Williams Eke, a designer at the size inclusive fashion company 11 Honoré during my gap year. We also had the option to design to the size of Special Olympics athletes who naturally had larger bodies, but most students chose to fit garments to the university mannequins — of which the standard size is a six.” (A Parsons representative told Teen Vogue that the most commonly used mannequins are a size six, but that they offer up to sizes 26 for women and 48 for men.)

This Spring/Summer 2023 New York Fashion Week for many felt like a notable commemoration in fashion. For some, for the first time in a while, NYFW felt like it was back. And with that feeling, it also seemed as though we were going back to the basics in this industry. Of a season with over 100 shows, only a relatively small portion included one or two larger sized bodies. The Tommy Hillfiger show stands alone as one of the most diverse shows, not only including plus-size women but men as well.

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