In 2018, former ‘America’s Next Top Model’ contestant Khrystyana Kazakova created ‘The Real Catwalk’ fashion show, using her platform to advocate for diversity in the fashion industry.
Created in response to Victoria’s Secret’s famous lingerie fashion shows, the program intended to be a celebration of all kinds of bodies, inspired by the ‘body positivity’ movement. The men and women who feature in the show come from all kinds of religions, backgrounds and ethnicities, and showcase many different shapes and sizes.
The Real Catwalk was initially held in New York. This year, the event came to London, on the 31st August. It was held in Trafalgar Square, with models braving the British weather to strut their stuff in underwear.
So, why was this an important moment for the beauty industry?
Anyone who’s seen a Victoria’s Secret show will know that they are famed, and sometimes criticised, for featuring thin, toned models. The brand has often been criticised for showcasing just a single body shape in its shows, as well as for a lack of ethnic diversity amongst its (predominantly white) models. The Victoria’s Secret show was in its twentieth year before a model walked the runway with an afro, and the brand recently faced criticism for using Hungarian model Barbara Palvin in a series of more ‘body positive’ adverts, despite the fact that she is only a UK size 8. Whilst Palvin is undeniably curvier than many of the brand’s other ‘angels’, she is still much thinner than most women in the UK, where the average dress size is now around a 14. In her attempt to challenge this lack of diversity, Kazakova has created an environment that is the exact opposite of the Victoria’s Secret runway.
In a world where the images produced by many major fashion brands are happy to deny the existence of any woman who is above a size 6, has a single hair on her bronzed body or, heaven forbid, has ever had a spot, this kind of imagery matters. It sends the message that anyone can feel beautiful at any size, regardless of any ‘imperfections’.
Even at a relatively slim size 10, living in a body that is considered somewhat acceptable in today’s society, I felt empowered viewing those images, and knew I had a lot more in common with their subjects than I ever will with a Victoria’s Secret model. I can’t begin to imagine the joy anyone non-white, plus-size or disabled must have felt at finally seeing themselves represented on the runway.
In a world where 57% of 18-24 year olds admit to having experienced anxiety over their body size, we must strive to normalise the view that all bodies are beautiful, and worthy of wearing fashionable brands, and the obvious way to do that is to create more events like The Real Catwalk. If nothing else, such events provide consumers with a realistic idea of what their body will look like in a piece of clothing, as opposed to an unachievable fantasy.