These days, Instagram is the fashion industry’s best friend. It’s the marketing tool of our generation. A place where labels can announce their latest collaborations, showcase their products and build their brand identities for the world (or more specifically, their consumer base) to see. Turning this concept on its head, the social media company has created its own hashtag-backed campaign, #RunwayForAll, to underscore an issue currently plaguing the fashion industry — model diversity.
Although the recent seasons’ runways and ad campaigns featured more models of color than prior years, they largely perpetuated the industry’s stereotype of what a model “should” look like (i.e., thin, young, white). Nevertheless, the industry is slowly but surely inching its way towards inclusivity, as demonstrated by the achievements of Mama Càx, Shaun Ross, Clémentine Desseaux, Londone Myers and Jillian Mercado, to name a few.
#RunwayForAll tells the stories of these five models, in an effort to “highlight some of the bravest and most creative models on Instagram who are building their own audiences and telling their own stories,” Instagram’s fashion and arts community lead, Kristen Joy Watts, told Refinery29. “These breakout stars aren’t conforming to the industry’s traditional mold and, in fact, are redefining it.”
On Monday, the brand’s account featured Càx, a Haitian beauty who, despite losing her leg to an aggressive form of bone cancer, now spends her days traveling, modeling and documenting her adventures on her blog.
“#RunwayForAll means any teenager feels represented when they open a magazine or watch a fashion show,” says Mama Cax (@caxmee). Mama grew up in Haiti, lives in New York City and never aspired to be a model — “not only because there were very few dark models on magazine covers but also because I grew up with very little knowledge of the fashion industry,” she says. “Eight years ago, after getting my leg amputated, the idea of being a model was even more far-fetched.” Today, Mama is modeling and doing other things that she was told there was no audience for, like sharing tips for traveling as a black female amputee. “The majority of humans do not look like the mainstream idea of beauty,” she says. “One of the greatest barriers is not belonging. Through modeling I hope to show that beauty does not always wear a size zero and beauty does not always walk on two limbs.” Every day this week, we’ll be sharing the story of a model who is redefining industry standards and making sure there’s room on the #RunwayForAll. Photo of @caxmee by @simonhuemaen
This Tuesday we got further acquainted with Shaun Ross, who you may recognize from any number of things: the pages of Italian Vogue and i-D Magazine, his Givenchy campaign, the Hood By Air runway or Beyoncé’s Party music video, to name but a few. The prolific albino male model has also spearheaded his own inspirational hashtag campaign, #InMySkinIWin.
“#RunwayForAll is a world where everyone is treated the same,” says Shaun Ross (@shaundross). When he started modeling nearly a decade ago, Shaun was the only male model of color with albinism. “I remember when I first entered the industry all I saw were models that looked the same,” he says. “Now here we are almost 10 years later, and I see the choice I’ve made has helped the industry to see beauty in many ways, such as casting models and rising icons like @winnieharlow, @jilly_peppa and more to help lead the fight with me to diversity.” When he started, Shaun was one of a few openly gay models in the industry. “Agents always told male models to be masculine, but that was never the case for me. I never wanted to hide my sexuality,” he says. “I’d rather be myself.” Photo by @shaundross
Wednesday’s feature, French model Clémentine Desseaux, runs her own blog as well as Les Mijotés, a creative agency representing plus-size clothing brands. A few months ago, media outlets mistook Clémentine for the new face of Louboutin when the brand reposted a video of Desseaux wearing its latest lip shade. Once the rumor mill was silenced and the dust had cleared, many puzzled fans begged the question, “But why the hell not?”
“#RunwayforAll is not so much about what we look like anymore but more about what we represent,” says Clémentine Desseaux (@bonjourclem), who grew up in France. “I was always way bigger and taller than everyone when I was growing up, and I had those freckles,” she says. “When I saw the first plus models out there, I started thinking about trying it out. At that point I had no idea it would take me to where I am now.” Three years ago, Clementine moved to New York with $2,000 to her name and never looked back. “My size and look were in the way of me feeling invincible when I was young,” she says. “I hope I was the last generation of women to think like that. Role model is the new top model.” Every day this week, we’ll be sharing the story of a model who is redefining industry standards and making sure there’s room on the #RunwayForAll. Photo of @bonjourclem by @emmaandhercamera
Today, Londone Myers, once an aspiring mortician, now a favorite of Hedi Slimane, told her story. Those beautiful natural curls protect some serious brains.
“#RunwayForAll means living in a world without color,” says Londone Myers (@londonemyers), who is from Georgia and lives in New York City. “Growing up, it was so hard to relate to the Cindy Crawfords and Christy Turlingtons,” she says. “It’s great to no longer see so many models of color with straightened hair. Can you imagine if white models were made to perm their hair to achieve a completely different texture for every single shoot? Finally, society is embracing us for how we are naturally.” Londone has come a long way from her days of being bullied in school. “I was super insecure about my wide-set, mostly buck teeth,” she says. “@aggy_deyn and @lindseywixson taught me to just be myself. A model should be more of a force than a person.” Every day this week, we’ll be sharing the story of a model who is redefining industry standards and making sure there’s room on the #RunwayForAll. #Boomerang by @londonemyers
Tomorrow we’ll hear from Jillian Mercado, an IMG signee and one of the few professional models with a physical disability. Despite having muscular dystrophy and using a wheelchair, Jillian has appeared in a Diesel campaign, CR Fashion Book and on Beyoncé’s official website promoting her Formation tour merch.
OK LADIES now let’s get in FORMATION! So BEYond excited to finally announce that I’m on the official @beyonce website!!! A special shout out to Queen Bee herself and the amazing team behind it Photography by the most wonderful @danielavesco, Makeup @jamiebeaute, & Hair @jenniferjocelyn #slay #formation #jillianmercado
Bravo, Instagram. Thanks for helping us diversify our daily flood of inspiration (and hopefully more).
[ via the Huffington Post ]