man! I feel like a woman

In­di­vid­u­al­ity reigns supreme, as the most di­verse group of mod­els ever take to the run­way.

ELLE (Australia) - - Contents -

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

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