Where were the plus-size models at Houston fashion week?
Last week, the Fashion Houston runway showcased high fashion, eco-friendly fashion and just plain fun fashion from local and national designers. There was, however, one fashion show trend not seen during the event that was evident in New York and Paris.
Of all the looks that worked their way down the catwalk, none were plus-size. That's a concern for Houston designer Gayla Bentley, who was not part of the four-day event.
The discussion concerning plus or “modern” sizes, as Bentley refers to it, is valid from both angles. In theory, the models are essentially forms to best show each piece of clothing as it comes down the runway. The taller and thinner the model, the more emphasis on the clothing and not the body.
That’s not to say a model’s job is just to stay thin and walk. Good models can add a touch of drama or showcase an element we may not otherwise see. Of course, when 65 percent of American women wear a size 12 or higher, the clothes on the runway are really only options for a small segment of the shopping public. Shouldn’t fashion be available to everyone?
That’s Bentley’s take on the issue. Her collection, which ranges from a size two to 28, is carried by Neiman Marcus online and has been featured in Oprah Winfrey's magazine, O.
Bentley says she went through a six-week application process for Fashion Houston and was told she didn’t make the cut. She is disappointed with the outcome personally, but also for what it means for the big picture.
“We are trying to show we are a cosmopolitan city and I am leading this paradigm shift to show it’s not about size, it’s about style,” Bentley said. “Modern size women don’t want to go to a fashion show and buy another pair of shoes or a damn lipstick. We want dresses too.”
Bambi Lynn, executive director/producer for Audi Fashion Houston 2010, says Bentley’s omission from Fashion Houston was due to scheduling and budget, although she did admit she initially thought Bentley’s line was strictly plus-size.
“We started something this first year and you learn a lot. Initially it was just going to be three nights and we wanted one local designer each night. It just came down to not having the budget to book more models for her show,” Lynn says. “She was very gracious and certainly we would love to feature her next year. We don’t want to use up all our designers the first year.”
The push for larger, more realistic-sized models is a flashpoint in the fashion community. Model Crystal Renn is constantly scrutinized for her weight but has gained even more work at a size 14, walking in Jean Paul Gaultier’s 2006 fashion show in Paris. She has since dropped to a size 10, still shockingly large in NYC modeling circles, but she is busy, garnering spots in Zac Posen and Chanel shows. Renn recently told People magazine that, “there is change happening in the industry. There is more allowance for people to be different.”
Renn may be on to something. The plus-size e-tailer Onestopplus.com hosted a show during last month's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, featuring models sized 12 to 16 in spring looks from the site. And singer Beth Ditto worked it out on Jean Paul Gaultier’s spring runway in couture dresses made for her size 26 frame.
Bentley is pleased to see modern-sized women becoming more mainstream in the fashion world, and vows to keep pushing for change.
“I’m a pioneer and this is the last accepted prejudice," Bentley says. "Plus-size is cliché, modern size is now. We need to make style available to all.”