There is something to see at fashion week. Blink (or scroll too fast) and you’ll miss the details: feathered bagsfuturistic sunglassesfork jewelry. Throughout the month, we will shed light on things we have seen that have surprised or delighted us.
PARIS – For many years, the fashion industry has been criticized for its lack of diversity in body types displayed on runways.
Some progress has been made, and some seasons are better than others. But mostly, at the most prominent fashion shows in New York, London, Milan and Paris, the landscape of the just-concluded season looked like this: one plus-size model and one medium-sized model were thrown among a sea of zero-size (or roughly) models.
So it was refreshing, towards the end of this Paris Fashion Week, to see these ratios completely changed – even at one fashion show – by a young brand called Ester Manas, designed by Brussels duo Ester Manas and Balthazar Delepierre.
It was only the second show of Mrs. Manas and Mr. Delepierre. In 2020, the label was a semi-finalist of the LVMH Award, a prestigious competition for new designers, in which the duo technically stood out: about 90 percent of their collection comes in one size that fits several – from about 34 to 50 in French size, or 2 to 18 in U.S. size.
So, of the 29 looks presented at their fashion show on Saturday, less than a third wore conventionally slim models.
Yet instead of feeling like some extraordinary, clear act of physically-positive rebellion, the designers performed an even more impressive feat: it simply seemed normal. Models – like women buying clothes in the real world, like the audience watching the show – represented a wide range of sizes.
However, this was not necessarily everyday clothing for every woman, although it is true on most runways. These designs were with hair (which allows for a wide range of sizes), transparent, bright colors and sexy, but certainly constructed, revealing the lower midfs in a way that never looked too exposing.
In the backstage, after the show, several models cried, said Mr. Delepierre, because “they couldn’t imagine being able to walk the catwalk in Paris.”
But the designers emphasized that their casting was not conceived as an ethical attitude, or as a desire to create a utopia of self-confidence. It was practical. They had to show clothes this way to sell clothes. (Their biggest seller is Ssense.)
“We have to show how the pieces move,” said Mr. Delepierre.
“It’s about reality,” Ms Manas added. “It’s not about dreams.”