If you’re a not a newcomer on the internet, you’re probably used to fashion week filling your Instagram feed with photo after photo of gorgeous, stylish, white women. All within a size 0-4. Scroll through page after page on street style websites and you will quickly see a trend. Generally speaking, you probably won’t see anyone who’s style, size, or skin color resonates with or represents you. Is this new? No. And it’s far from over.
I’ll be the first to admit that usually during NYFW seasons past I go where the money is. I’ve never been interested in photographing street style outside the tents, hoping to get published. I work with private clients during fashion week, typically pulling them away from the tents so we’re not distracted, I’m getting paid to be there. But in most respects, aren’t the photographers at the tents looking to monetize their images too? I recently tried to rationalize why I never felt the urge, if it was the hustle that was disheartening – the rush that you feel when you try to photograph a complete stranger and have only moments to get that perfect shot. But it wasn’t. I enjoy that rush. I actually tend to work better when I have less time. I think quick on my feet.
So why didn’t I try before this particular season? I think because I was tired of seeing all the same types of women parading out of the tents, slim women with immaculate coats and newly gifted bags, flitting past only to stop and peacock when a photographer lifted his camera. I got tired of seeing the truly stylish women, with eccentric style and swag, be ignored for the celebrity influencers who were wearing head to toe designer garb (typically paid for by the brand they were currently attending). It felt commercial, a little fake, contrived. Maybe I got cynical, hell, I know I did. I think we all have over the years.
This is probably my 13th season? I’ve lost count. I got re-inspired last NYFW after working for Dia & Co during Curvy Con – an event FILLED to the brim with amazing plus size women bringing their A-game. I personally wish I had spent more time photographing everyone outside the venue because those images were my favorite during the event. The sense of electricity and excitement was one I haven’t felt in a long, long time. There was a lot of controversy last season with the Torrid show (and a certain thin celebrity influencer attending the event over more seasoned and respected plus bloggers) but overall I feel like the take away was a push towards more size acceptance in fashion.
This season, when Simply Be reached out to me to photograph NYFW they gave me full freedom to shoot whoever I wanted and I took full advantage. I photographed everyone that inspired me. POC, LGBTQ, older women, curve models, etc. you name it – if they looked interesting to me and had a genuine sense of style and personality, I’d photograph them. So much in fact that the 8 hours I was commissioned to shoot for Simply Be turned into 10, then 12, then I started shooting for myself. I was re-inspired. I started sharing photos on my insta stories initially but quickly realized the response was resounding. People wanted more.
People appreciated seeing people like them being represented. Because they haven’t been.
In terms of plus women not being represented I wish I could say I saw a ton of women at the shows I went to but I really didn’t. I saw a handful. I don’t know if that’s simply because they didn’t feel the urge to attend a show where they weren’t included size wise, what’s the point of covering an event where the designer flat refuses to dress above a size 12? I will say I saw the most at Chromat and Christian Siriano – both of who push for size diversity. I applaud the newer brands for having plus models walk their shows but if the only size strutting down the runway is a 12 with padding on, you’re doing it wrong. Stop using token fat women, stop using token POC. Do better. Over the years it’s definitely garnered a bit of frustration on my part, watching society continue to boycott plus until it was deemed a trending topic to do so.
When it comes down to it most of these photographers sell their images to online venues to share or are working specifically for a brand or publication. Maybe their reluctance stems from past experience – them giving images of plus or POC and being denied or turned away? I understand that frustration, when you are at the tents you are in a rush, trying to get the best shots and fighting against the crowds to do so. But in this day and age with things moving forward as they are, there is absolutely no excuse not to try to include everyone. So what if they don’t get purchased? Post it online, share with your own personal audiences, etc. At one particular venue I saw two photographers fight over a thin white blonde woman who was impeccably dressed yes but again – you could open up any magazine and see a woman just like her. I want to be re-inspired by street style during NYFW, see the new, the bold and it struck me as odd, that interaction – the aggressive nature over a societal norm.
I will say that I connected with quite a few photographers while working this season and thankfully I wasn’t the only one flocking towards the POC and plus girls. Whether or not more of their images are used and circulated, who can say. I know a shot my friend Rand Williams took of Kelly Augustine popped up on a popular streetstyle site and it was well deserved because she looked amazing (as always) and the photograph itself was gorgeous. My only hope is that with people pushing designers to be better and the idea of fat no longer being considered a dirty word, perhaps some good can come of this.