man! I feel like a woman
Individuality reigns supreme, as the most diverse group of models ever take to the runway.
There’s no other word for it: Imaan Hammam was sashaying. Her long, lean pants suit was undulating like unwhipped cream and her natural curls were bouncing with each decisive step down Brandon Maxwell’s SS17 runway. It was only the designer’s third ready-to-wear show and yet he’d asked the in-demand model (see why on p52) to open proceedings at New York’s famed Russian Tea Room. It was what fashion insiders would describe as a “moment”, with the standing ovation to prove it.
It wasn’t so much about Maxwell’s clothes – though they were the Holy Grail mix of incredibly wearable, fiercely feminine and fabulous all at once – but more the way Hammam and her runway comrades were wearing them. Quite simply, with joy. There was new girl Dilone breaking out in a smile midway down the runway, activist Adwoa Aboah doing a spontaneous twirl as she went and indigenous Australian Charlee Fraser winking at the camera. They were having almost as much fun as Lady Gaga, who was shimmying in the front row. “The women today in his clothing, they look elegant, tailored, strong, but also they have attitude and it’s that little bit bad-ass,” she said after the show, before ducking backstage to “steal a few pieces” for herself.
In a way, it was a return to the late ’80s/early ’90s when models were mighty and magnetic and wholeheartedly moved their hips. “We used to depend so much on all of these girls to bring a personality, a dress, and we would tell them: be yourself, feel sexy, have fun, get into the show, be a character,” casting director James Scully recalled in his somewhat scathing review of the modernday fashion industry for The Business Of Fashion. But if this show was anything to go by, the business Scully says was once built on a celebration of women’s beauty and diversity, but had since lost its way, may finally be making progress.
With everyone from Naomi Campbell to the all-powerful Council of Fashion Designers of America calling for the fashion industry to be more inclusive, a mounting push for diversity may just be paying off. According to The Fashion Spot’s biannual diversity report, which analysed 299 shows and 8,832 model appearances during the SS17 shows, this season has been the most inclusive in
recent history. There’s still a long way to go (while Maxwell’s casting resulted in 69 per cent models of colour, the industry average was 25.4 per cent), but the fact the conversation is happening shows promise.
“One thing that was really big in this collection was just love,” said Maxwell, who has dressed former US First Lady Michelle Obama and worked with the other first lady, Lady Gaga, as her stylist since 2012. And he wasn’t alone in his emotional message. The crowd was certainly feeling the love in Milan later that month when ’70s fashion icon Lauren Hutton, now 73, showed off her signature gap-toothed grin on the Bottega Veneta runway in a timeless trench to mark the house’s 50th anniversary. For the victory lap, 21-year-old Gigi Hadid walked alongside her in a dusty pink top and pants (below right). They could easily have swapped outfits, and creative director Tomas Maier was quick to note it wasn’t about youth or maturity. “It’s never about an age group. I dislike any kind of classification, by skin tone or age – it’s something I detest,” he said backstage.
But we couldn’t help noting the incredible roster of names that Maier had enlisted for his show. Karen Elson, Malgosia Bela, Elise Crombez, Eva Herzigova, Joan Smalls, Liu Wen: all women with experience under their belt and personality in spades, and all dressed in universally flattering garments – paper-bag waist pants, belted midi dresses, easy shirts, knits and double-breasted pants suits – that crossed borders and body shapes, no matter their date of birth.
The fact is, some of the most memorable designs seen on the runway came with this refreshing “every woman” appeal – from the delightful clash of fabrics and textures at Prada, a show that saw wallpaper florals, feathers, tweed and pool slides meet, to the architectural sporty brights at Chromat (where designer Becca Mccharen-tran made a case against tokenism by casting amputee model Lauren Wasser, plus-sized models like Sabina Karlsson and Iskra Lawrence, and four trans models including Carmen Carrera). And then there was the “We Should All Be Feminists” slogan tee teamed with an overgrown tutu for the Christian Dior collection that new creative director and former Valentino favourite Maria Grazia Chiuri said was about the meeting of a woman’s mind and heart (the latter literally picked out on chests in red thread).
Whether it was shocking pink, squareshouldered power jackets or kick-ass military fatigues, the message for SS17 was clearly one looking forward, not back. For Hammam, a Dutch model of Egyptian and Moroccan descent who shot to fashion fame in 2013 when she opened a show for Givenchy, it’s about owning our uniqueness. “In the beginning of my career, my hair was always straight, and one day I was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to start wearing my hair natural.’ I started doing that and everyone was like, ‘Whoa.’” Hammam practically ruled the four fashion weeks two seasons ago with her curly hair, and promptly nabbed a coveted Tiffany & Co campaign. “I’m happy that [perceptions are] changing and that designers are super open now,” she says. “I think it’s a great sign for the future.”
Bandeau, $180, Bassike, bassike.com Shirt, $1,450, Prada, (02) 9223 1688
From top: bag, $1,799, Boss, (03) 9474 6370; bag, $3,270, Prada, (02) 9223 1688; bag, $1,099, Boss, (03) 9474 6370
Skirt, $290, By Johnny, byjohnny.com.au Jacket, $215, COS, cosstores.com
Blazer, $799, Rebecca Vallance, rebeccavallance. com Belt, $49, David Lawrence, davidlawrence.com.au
Shoes, $1,100, Christian Dior, (02) 9229 4600