A Model on Melbourne Fashion Week’s Newfound Diversity, Celebration and Love
When I first read the press release for this year’s Melbourne Fashion Week, set to be the most “diverse” and “inclusive” to date, I was a little skeptical.
I’ve learnt not to get my hopes up when it comes to diversity in the fashion industry, having longed for it so many times, to no avail. But I’m happy to report that this time was different.
I attended MFW’s Rialto Melbourne Dining Runway, and it was by far the most diverse runway I’ve ever seen.
As we sat on Ronnie’s European-style terrace, sipping aperol spritzes and enjoying the first few flecks of sunlight for the day, diverse model after diverse model came strutting down the Rialto Towers Piazza runway, each inspiring me with creativity and emotion.
I looked at my friend with a look of pure joy on my face.
‘This is incredible, isn’t it?” she said, with equal excitement.
“Yeah, it’s amazing.” I said. “This is definitely the most diverse runway I’ve ever seen in Australia.”
It was diverse in every way. The models were diverse in size, body types, ethnicity, looks and abilities. There were plus-sized models, people of colour, and models with disabilities, all modelling clothes from epic Australian labels with a focus on sustainability.
It was actually quite a surreal moment. We’ve always felt a little behind in the Australian fashion industry. Curve and plus-sized models have been walking in fashion weeks overseas for a few years now, and we’re only just starting to see them walk the runway and appear in campaigns in Australia in the past year or so.
Earlier this year, at the Melbourne Fashion Festival, was the first time we’d really seen curve models (who aren’t famous) walk down an Australian runway. I was fortunate enough to be a part of that moment, and it’s something I’ll never forget.
As for models with disabilities, the first moment of true change was when Aaron Rose Philip made history, debuting her runway career at Moschino’s SS22 show, during New York Fashion Week earlier this year.
Usually, Australia is a few years behind. But this year’s MFW wasn’t having that. Model, Disability, Diversity, Inclusion and Gender Equity Consultant Akii Ngo, both walked with their cane and with a wheelchair in yesterday’s Rialto Melbourne Dining Runway.
I really can’t gush enough. It’s so special to see beautiful clothes, modelled on real people. I don’t even know how to put the impact it has into words.
I chatted to a friend of mine, curve model Anucia De Boer, who walked in the show. We chatted about what her experience was like being involved in such a monumental moment for Australian fashion.
“From the moment I walked into the casting, it was just really nice to not be there as a token curve model,” Anucia tells me.
“When I looked at the clothing on my rack I thought, ‘These are beautiful’. I knew some of the designers and I was so excited to wear them.”
Walking into the room in the morning, with no idea what to expect, and finding it full of amazing, real, beautiful and different people just felt amazing, Anucia says.
“I thought, ‘Look at me and where I am right now.’ You know, because of the colour of my skin, because of my lived experience, my body and my age… and it wasn’t just about the people. I think it’s also about the stories they bring—that changes the experience for everyone in the room.
“There was this real sense of celebration. There were some people doing their first show, others that had done it before, but everyone was throwing support behind one another
“The love, support and understanding for everyone in that space just made it so interesting to be a part of.”
The brands that were shown in this runway were almost as dazzling as the diverse models. The MFW Rialto Dining Runway featured looks from Collective Closets, Coreprêt, Harlow, Joslin, Kuwaii, Micky In The Van, Pfeiffer, TORANNCE, We are Kindred and Vow Studio.
Each brand was distinctive, unique, full of imagination and had entirely different feels to them. They were full of art and emotion and care and I walked away feeling truly inspired.
I mean honestly, how often can you say that you’ve walked away from a fashion week show feeling like you want to go and buy some of the clothes you saw, and that you could actually see yourself wearing them?
That is the power of diversity and representation.
“The brands were pretty incredible,” Anucia agrees.
“What it is about these smaller brands is they do this thing that big brands aren’t doing, which is addressing an issue, and going in to tackle them head on.
“It shows big brands that they can do it too. If smaller brands, can do it with the resources they have; that they can be sustainable, they can be inclusive… and not just in a tokenistic way, it’s really inspiring.
“These brands are all about sustainable fashion and slow fashion. They show you that you can buy and love just one piece, that clothes can have longevity, that they can add to your style and create personality.
“I really love that we have brands in Australia that are taking big strides in that space.”
Anucia says that she hopes there is more of this to come.
“The atcual show and energy backstage was electric. Watching everyone be celebrated and told to have fun, and be themselves was incredible. It was one of the best things I’ve experienced.
“I hope that this is the direction—of celebration, love and support—that we continue to go in the industry, for the people who work in it but also for the people that observe it, the consumers.”