Thursday, August 6, 2009

Props to Myer for welcoming plus size models onto its SS0910 runways. But why exclude them from the big Sydney media launch?

beth ditto for evans/

In addition to semi-regular fashion chats with various radio stations, I am now doing a fortnightly chinwag with the Afternoons with Carole Whitelock show on ABC Adelaide, every second Tuesday at 2.00pm AEST. This week, we discussed the news of the move by Australian department store Myer to incorporate plus-size models in its upcoming Spring/Summer 2009/2010 season launch parades around Australia - and the general subject of fashion and the larger woman. Click the player above to hear the iv. I do hasten to add here, however, that the plus-size models will be appearing everywhere other than the Sydney launch on August 19. At the time of the interview, having read several interstate stories, I believed they may also have been due to appear in Sydney. My apologies for the confusion. Myer's plus-size brands – which include Basque Woman, Jane Lamerton, Taking Shape, Nouvelle Woman and Estelle – will only be shown in the consumer parades. Myer spokesman Mitch Catlin told frockwriter that plus-size models will appear in Myer's consumer parades, including the five Sydney downtown parades, but not at the most high profile event on August 19, “Because that [parade] is Australian designer and they don’t make plus size. Also, it’s a media event, not a public event. We decided that all of our public events would reflect what consumers are buying”.

Although the public might not be invited to the Sydney press launch, they will of course be viewing the reports.

As we already know moreover, one of Myer's best-known designer brands, Leona Edmiston, does in fact cater up to a size 24. Same goes for Toni Maticevski who, from this month in 20 Myer stores, will offer a custom-make bridesmaids range called Maticevski Sweethearts that also caters up to a size 24.

So that's two of Myer's headline designers who will be featured in the August 19 show, who already cater to the plus-size market. Why on earth not show some of their merchandise?

I wrote about Edmiston's decision to upsize to 24 on my Fully Chic blog at

Fully Chic readers who migrated to frockwriter may recall that the Leona Edmiston post prompted quite some debate – not to mention vitriol. And from both sides; that is, from both fat and skinny bashers.

Many larger women applauded Edmiston's decision to finally cater to their needs, while some criticised her decision to sell the larger sizes in the online boutique only. Others claimed the move was "normalising" obesity.

One commenter attracted a lot of attention - from not just blog readers, but also from the hosts of 10 Australian radio shows that wound up talking about the post - when she noted that she would hate turning up to a party in exactly the same dress that a size 24 was wearing.

Edmiston's decision to make larger sizes available exclusively online was based on the company's market research that indicated many larger women feel uncomfortable in designer boutiques - something that was certainly borne out in comments on the Fully Chic post.

Several months later, I did an interview with Paris-based American plus-size model Velvet d’Amour, who says she has been criticised for "ruining" the plus-size modelling industry because she is so much bigger than the plus-size norm.

I had originally interviewed Velvet in October 2006, when she was modelling in Jean Paul Gaultier's Spring/Summer 2007 show in Paris. It was her first full-length interview and it attracted quite a lot of attention at the time, notably from the US.

Last year's Fully Chic interview also prompted heated debate amongst readers – and yet more vitriol. Although Velvet encouraged me to publish some of the harshest comments, to demonstrate the vilification that is often faced by larger people, there were many, many comments which just could not see the light of day because they were so disgusting.

Damn those larger ladies and their propensity to hog the fashion spotlight. Can’t they just stick to muumuus? Don't they know their place?

Apparently not. As Velvet noted in the latter interview, there is a “quiet, fat revolution” underway, spearheaded by larger-than-life high-profilers such as Beth Ditto.

Ditto, the frontwoman of American indie rock outfit Gossip, has no fear of fashion, pouring herself into HervĂ© Leger and Alexander McQueen – among other brands - all of it presumably custom-made by designers who don’t mind high-profile larger women wearing their clothes. Which is, one has to say, pretty unusual. Although truth be told, the designer brands worn by Ditto would be hard pressed to cater to even a size 16 in their regular offerings.

At the same time Ditto, alongside other larger celebrities, stands accused by medical authorities of helping normalise obesity, which of course many believe is rising at alarming levels around the world.

While others believe the obesity epidemic has been overstated.

Earlier this year Ditto made the inaugural cover - and naked - of Katie Grand’s new magazine LOVE.

Last month she unveiled a collab line with British plus-size highstreet chain Evans.


Julie said...

While it's great that Myer is FINALLY having plus size models on their catwalk to exclude them from the main event in Sydney sends a very clear, very damning message that "we think you big girls are ok now, but you're not ok."

What a shame and a great opportunity missed.

Hope it's different next year.

RunwayRevolution said...

Patty, while I welcome the light you shine on the issue of model sizes in the fashion industry, there are better people than Velvet to interview and reference, especially locally. Why? Two shows for major names doesn't make a model. Even she doesn't call herself a model when she does interviews, so it's a little strange to make her a vanguard for the rest of the girls, whether or not they would want her to speak for them. I didn't see the comment about her 'ruining' the plus size model industry in those posts, which I don't believe anyway, simply because she isn't a part of it in any real sense. Where are the campaigns? The editorials and other work BEFORE the Gaultier and Galliano shows?

Leona's offerings over size 4 have all but dwindled to 2 dresses offered online, so let's get some comment on that!

As for Myer and using plus-size models - well, they used to use them all the time in consumer shows but stopped that a while ago. Why was that? I'd say that the push to include more youth plus brands has the models included in the shows because lord knows Myer doesn't want old-looking outfits from Mirrors and Maggie T on the catwalk, they want to have young spunky models looking like bigger Jen Hawkins...although the models shown in the pictures from are size 14s...and that's in regular sizes, not the larger-cut plus sizes.

Patty Huntington said...

hi thelibrarian -

it was velvet who said she was seen to be "ruining" the plus size industry - they were her words in the interview i did with her last year. giving the industry a bad name is i imagine what she meant by that. she was referring to criticism she had copped. and yes, that's right, because of the fact that she is not really a plus size model at all. she is much, much bigger than regular plus size models. in fact she is really more of an entertainer, working in films, music videos and also directing videos and fashion shoots. i first met velvet at the gaultier show and was interested to talk to her. there was certainly a huge amount of interest at the time. i think she has a unique perspective on the issue of body image, that's why i keep talking to her.

as for leona edmiston, i just checked the online boutique and from a quick, glance four out of the nine dresses under the main leona edmiston label were available up to a size 20. so roughly half. that's not bad. i'd be interested to know what happened to the size 24s she was offering. perhaps in the end there was just not enough demand.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to post a comment on this a while ago but i resisted. I agree with Myers decision to use plus-size models but not on the main sydney launch and runway shows. Fashion, to me personally, is fantasy. It is idealism. Plus-size models should be used and i wouldn't mind if they were on a smaller platform. In fact, now that i think about I wouldn't mind if stores like Myer, for example, use larger models. But, I don't really want to see them as i view images from high-fashion brands like Karl Lagerfield. I personally do not recognise many plus-size models as 'models'. In looking at your feature on Velvet, i am not comfortable with this concept. For me, she is too plus-sized, but that is my opinion and i accpet that most would disagree. In saying that, i do not agree with the full on waif look where bones are showing either. It is purely unhealthy. This industry is entirely superficial, and i think the girls look best when they are thin.

Anonymous said...

Personally - being a plus-size model myself, i can't wait for the day when luxury labels and high-fashion magazines employ real girls to promote their product and fill their pages... and not just buy a Crystal Renn editorial from overseas publications once every blue moon! There are PLENTY of gorgeous, sexy and professional women on the books of Australian plus-size agencies who still look like straight-size models except with just a little more meat on their bones- who too work just as hard and are just as good at their job, who book as many jobs and can earn the exact same amounts of money as straight-size girls... now are we still not recognizing them as 'models'?
From my experience and from what i have gathered from girls at my agency, there is a feeling as if once you've scored Myer and David Jones campaigns or a editorial with David Gubert at Australian Womens Weekly then thats it! You've done all you can do in Australian plus-size fashion and there's nothing else to conquer after it. I'm all for pushing REAL-size, delicious girls in Australian fashion so one day the glass ceiling effect will be a thing of the past... Being 'plus-size' has nothing to do with being obese or promoting unhealthy ideals... its a size of clothing thats a mere 3 sizes bigger than a straight sample size!! Just thought i'd clear that up...

Anonymous said...

And im also in this Friday's parades @ Myer CBD! Come check it out!

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