Is Inclusivity getting in the way of agency?

Fashion’s newfound love for inclusivity has been lauded and embraced through the industry as a pathway forward from the more chauvinistic elements of the recent past, even counting the early 2000s as archaic.  Millennials (like myself) arrived and waved a wand, littered a comment section with vitriol, and the Les Wexners of the world were jailed like the evil butt-grabbing, coffee, and cigarette diet-pushing gremlins they were.  At least, that’s the hope and sentiment.  

However, as the miasma of life on a runway starts to ease from 8th-century serfdom, poverty calories, and sexual impropriety (which has really been a hallmark of humanity since the beginning of time), there is still work to be done and writers willing to complain about it in dry prose.  

I just stopped typing briefly to raise my hand and acknowledge my own proclivity for complaining.  

Many of the complaints say that not enough has been done in the pursuit of inclusivity.  The big fashion houses are still missing plus-size models in most seasonal shows.  I couldn’t easily count on one hand which designers are making anything adaptive for people missing limbs.  

I feel I can understand the frustration some are feeling, as though the talk and celebration of inclusivity is just…lip service.

As we speak, I’m watching a particularly gaunt model walk moderately fast  down a Ludovic de Saint Sernin runway with a shirt so loose and relaxed that it could be considered a sideways toga on this Timothee Chalamet look-a-like.  He’s a vision of high-end fashion…the entire runway is.  I’m enjoying it, although I could never enjoy such a life of opportunity.  Not only because I have no interest in it.  I couldn’t enjoy it because that’s just not my frame.  It’s been hard enough to carve some muscle into my 5’11, 200+ pound frame.  I wouldn’t want to forsake all foods that taste good to lose that hard-earned muscle; and the moderate layer of belly fat? I’m moving more before I decide to demonize french fries altogether.

And let’s say I do decide to take my mug to a fashion house after drinking celery juice, running 30 miles a week, and taking myself seriously for once when I look in the mirror…should my dream of being the next Tyson Beckford be realized?  Maybe…probably not.  

See…there’s a word that gets a bad rap, but it’s in line with something we do all the time; when we spy on a potential mate, when we peruse a menu, when we try on clothes at the mall, when we drive a route to work.  We discriminate.  We have to.  Use another word if it makes you feel better (Judge?  Discern?).  

We make snap decisions and judgments based on our inner vision, intuition, and, if you’re like me, general pessimism.  It’s a very human attribute.  If we lose all discernment, we’re likely to tell a boss to screw off; tell your girlfriend she looks like poorly done Japanese rope play in those jeans, and catch an assault charge in the bar every time some rando insulted you or…stepped on your Nikes.  We judge what’s for us and what isn’t for us.  

Shouldn’t fashion houses have the same agency?  

If their creative directors and designers don’t have a vision for plus-size models, should we really begin to hurl tomatoes?  

Let’s briefly discuss some of the missteps I’ve seen:

  1. As I mentioned before, not everyone has a vision for more inclusive models.  However, I’ve seen what it can look like when a fashion house tries to force the vision: unflattering clothes that even the model feels uncomfortable in.  Who benefits from that?
  2. Brands like Gwynnie Bee became possible because the industry was not as inclusive as CEO Christine Hunsicker believed it should be; and although I’m sure a lot of frustration came with having to elbow into an industry that had all but shunned the curves we embrace today, would Christine have a space to do what she did before a mega brand knocked out some barely original plus size ideas?  Some of the most brilliant art and innovation have come as a result of the not-so-cool kids having no choice but to carve their own niche.  
  3. It can devolve into pandering.  I won’t go much further on this one.  If you’ve read about IKEA trying to celebrate black history month with a chicken and watermelon lunch; or a big soft drink company all of a sudden put a pride flag behind every logo…you know that it feels all a little…like the newest marketing ploy.

So, I humbly implore my fellow millennial: be the change you want to be in the world.  

Or at least, I don’t know, try to be reasonable. 


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