Models of Diversity is a British advocacy group that pushes for the recognition of models of all races, ages, shapes, sizes and abilities in the fashion and marketing industries. It’s various research has found that more than half of women wearing size 18 feel shops don’t offer a range of choices that cater to different sizes. It also found that more than four in 10 women wearing a size 18 or larger find plus-size clothes to be less fashionable than smaller sizes. Founder, Angel Sinclair speaks to Plus Side of Plus Size about some of the organization’s key efforts.
Many people recognize the lack of diversity in the fashion industry, but few actually work to change it—what inspired you to take action?
I was first inspired when I was a contestant on Gok Wan’s “Miss Naked Britain” in 2008 and I saw such diverse beauty present that you just don’t see on the catwalk and in magazines. I think the fact that so few do work to change it means it’s even more of an effort I need to take on.
Why do you choose to gather data through street polls?
It’s the general public that makes a fashion industry possible by buying the clothes and it’s they who consume the media output, yet time and again they tell us they can’t identify with the models presenting the clothes they are meant to aspire to own. It’s only right that their voices are heard.
What are your general findings?
It couldn’t be more plain—people tell us there is not enough diversity of all kinds. When they see a model presenting a look, they want to have an idea how it will look on them. When the average size of a UK women is 14 that’s what people want to see! And yet if a plus size model appears on the catwalk it causes such an uproar.
What is the main purpose of your campaigns and polls?
It’s all about raising awareness and encouraging people to think and talk about the issues. We talk to designers, publishing houses, media companies just trying to get them to think about what seems obvious to us—that the models we see don’t represent the audience. We have about 4,500 members on our Facebook group. And we get coverage from local press, radio and fashion blogs.
Have you presented these findings to the UK’s fashion and advertising industries or any national media outlets, in hopes that it will change their practices?
We are having discussions with the British Fashion Council and hope to influence next year’s London Fashion Week, but progress is slow.
Tell me about your diverse-model fashion shows—particularly last month’s event at Oxford Fashion Week.
We had models of colour, with disabilities, mature models, plus size, petite and male. We invited the public, fashion critics, designers and anyone else interested in fashion and beauty. Attendees and local press were very positive and I recall one designer saying he had become bored with the other presentations showing the same old shapes and sizes—but he said when our models came on he was thrilled.
Do you foresee plus-size models and clothing appearing in national women’s magazines and on mainstream Fashion Week runways any time soon?
Not really—it is good to see some shops starting to offer their range in larger sizes. But focus from the media tends to fall on a plus-size celebrity model, not including plus size in the mainstream in general. It just hasn’t been accepted yet: at last year’s London Fashion Week, when Mark Fast decided to use size 12 and 14 models at London Fashion Week, some of his design team walked out! It was madness!
What can we expect next from Models of Diversity? Any expansion plans or upcoming campaigns or events?
We’re producing a TV short, which we hope will lead to TV exposure, and we’re looking to put on a plus-size fashion show late summer.