In case you haven’t been keeping up (which, if you’re an avid GTHQ reader there’s no way you would have missed it!) there is a fashion revolution afoot and it’s only going to get better. Over the past couple of years we have witnessed so many amazing women speaking out and disrupting the mainstream fashion and beauty industries by showing why it is important to represent all bodies, all ethnicities, all ages, as well as differently-abled bodies.
Names like Ashley Graham and Robyn Lawley have become as familiar as the likes of Gisele Bundchen or Tyra Banks, and it is awesome! What is important to note about the plus size disruption of fashion is that is has not been a tokenistic movement, or just some passing fad. Nope. Diverse bodies and inclusive representations on the runway and in magazine are here to stay. They are fast become the “new normal” thanks to a number of pioneer women.
Two women who are part of the movement are Denise Bidot and Clementine Desseaux, each of whom have broken some major barriers in the fashion world. Let’s start with Denise, the Puerto Rican-Kuwaiti badass who became the first plus size model to walk in two straight-size runway shows at New York Fashion Week in September 2014. Those shows were for Chromat (lead image above) and Serena Williams’ line. She was hand-picked by Serena to be the only plus-size model in her show.
Denise has modeled all over the world for some very recognizable brands and magazines, and also caused a major stir by appearing in the Swimsuits For All ‘Beach Body Not Sorry’ campaign where she proudly flaunted her curves and unretouched cellulite in a range of bathing suits. In a recent interview with NY Mag’s The Cut, Denise shares her thoughts on what is happening in the fashion industry and why she takes her role as a pioneer very seriously.
“We’re at this amazing moment where all of those barriers that at one point segregated us are nonexistent. We’re here, we’ve made our point, and we’re being listened to. You’re seeing an entire industry that was so secure in what they thought was right finally opening their eyes to something different. I never thought that I’d get to see it in my lifetime. To be a part of that change, to be able to show my daughter that she never has to grow up with insecurities,” she said.
She fell into modeling accidentally, after trying her hand at acting and deciding to quit after getting sick of being constantly told to lose weight. From working as a makeup artist for another plus size model, she was spotted on set by a photographer who encouraged her to try modeling herself. Once she started, she soon realized what a great opportunity it was not just to earn a living, but to spread an important message to other girls who have felt the way she did.
“Five years ago, I started getting messages from all these girls. Social media had put the power back in the consumer’s hands. [Modeling] is a way to speak up, be recognized, and to be that person that I never had growing up,” she said.
One of the loudest messages being touted by the disrupters is that there is more than one way to be a woman, and models and advocates are demanding that brands and campaigns start reflecting this.
“We have enough battles in the world to not support each other, to not be rooting for each other. One step for one is one step for all of us. We don’t need to say one is less than the other to feel validated…It’s exactly what we’ve been talking about for years. Plus models should be allowed to do beauty campaigns, hair campaigns, and everything that anyone else should be able to do,” she explained.
Clearly the message is hitting the right notes as we have seen some major consumer fashion companies like Target and JC Penney recognize the need to cater to the billion dollar plus size market. These companies and others like them would be crazy to continually ignore such a growing market and deliberately leave money on the table, so to speak, just to continually push an outdated beauty ideal.
The size 14 badass is also quick to shut down the health police who always seem to be out in full force on the internet claiming that every plus size woman is somehow morbidly unhealthy and in danger.
“I’ve always been a bit of a rebel in that I didn’t really care. I am healthy. I eat right. I work out. These are all things that you have to explain to people to understand that I was meant to be this way. My body feels comfortable at this size. This is where I always end up, no matter how much I try to diet. I’m a size 14. My butt is there, my curves are there, and there is my waist. This is my body,” she states adamantly.
More than anything, she wants other girls and women who have never felt represented or never felt comfortable in who they are to know there is nothing wrong with them. This is probably one of the greatest things about the fashion revolution.
“It’s beautiful to feel confident. Don’t we want everyone to feel that way, too? Many women don’t ever get to feel what we feel on set…Hopefully we can just keep pushing the message for the girls, keep getting them to understand that they’re perfect just the way they are,” she said.
And for those of you who don’t get know Clementine Desseaux, here’s a quick catch up lesson: she is France’s first major “curvy” model who was picked to be the first plus size woman to model for iconic French brand Christian Louboutin’s range of lipsticks in 2015. Coming from a country where the beauty ideal of being waif thin is well-established and well-known, it is a big deal seeing someone like Clementine set a new standard for an entire generation of women.
She was recently featured on Instagram’s #RunwayForAll campaign which was about celebrating the fashion disruption and revolution that is currently happening. Clementine was also the first plus size model to be featured in the brilliant Style Like U video series back in 2014.
Clementine told Racked.com that at the time the movement was very new and industry insiders were just catching on to the the fact that people really wanted to see more of this.
“I think blogs and brands are focusing on it now because that’s what people want to see, and they have started using people who aren’t models, just real people with real stories…I think the small changes that developed over the past few years are starting to hit the big companies. The ones that are leading the way are actually starting to impact the industry as a whole.” she said.
She does worry that like other moments throughout the history of fashion, this movement will soon fade away, but the way things are going and the amount of attention and demand, perhaps it will outlast most other fads.
“I’m sometimes afraid that it’s only a trend because everything is [a trend], and everything is about money, so I’m a little worried that all this diversity and positivity is going to go away at some point. But at the same time, the way that people reacted to those campaigns and videos was so wholeheartedly happy, and it actually brought more sales and more positive remarks about campaigns,” she said.
The disruption-factor is certainly not lost on Clementine who recognizes what a big deal it is for the French market to accept someone who looks like her.
“Such a big French brand using a curvier girl for her face is a big step. Not for curvy women, not for freckles, just for women… The beauty norm is changing and differences that used to be weaknesses are now turning into strengths. Being curvy and freckly was never easy back when I was in France. Now beauty is changing and brands are putting girls that are different in the spotlight. They are opening up to all the beauty that is in the world and not only the European, blond, skinny, white woman type,” she told the Daily Mail in December 2015.
While revolutionizing the runway and major fashion campaigns is only the start, Clementine says it should now also extend to the everyday clothing store. Curvy women should be able to walk in and easily find clothing that fits their shape without being relegated to some section in the back that isn’t part of the main women’s clothing area. This will go a long way to helping young girls grow up feeling comfortable about their bodies and not feel like an outsider when they look at fashion. That’s what it is all about – inclusivity.
“The more we put diversity in front of so many eyes, the more people will think that it’s normal to have all types of beauty and all types of people, and it’s going to make the level of judgment that people have towards each other less and less, which I think ultimately will make a better world. I’m an optimist, but that’s how I see it,” she concluded.
Watch both Denise and Clementine talk about curvy fashion in this video for the 2013 Zizzi Autumn campaign: