This weekend was long, tiring, fun and full of revelations. One of those revelations was that Africa is too fixed on western standards. Let’s take fashion for instance.
I was at an amazing fashion show featuring some of Kenya’s most outstanding fashion designers. The set up was beautiful and the designs were vibrant, sexy, fun and stylish and the models did an amazing job. One question kept popping up though “Why aren’t there any plus size models?” Why indeed.
Modeling in Africa is one of the industries fashioned after that of Europe, with skinny/slim models at 5’7 minimum strutting down runways or posing for fashion spreads. Why haven’t we set a standard suited for Africa? African women are curvy or well endowed, like me. I’m not going to look at a fashion spread with a reed thin model and think “ooooh I’d look great in that!” The message sent is that big women don’t deserve fashionable clothes and must settle for whatever items the gods of fashion deem adequate. I should add that saying a size 12 model is plus size is mildly (very) insulting.
I want to see a woman come down the runway looking absolutely delish, and showing off her curves! The same for magazines, having a section for the ‘fuller woman’ with tips and tricks of where to get gorgeous garments and how to figure out the right look to body type ratio would appeal to a greater number of women. That’s what would get me interested in all these fashion shows and magazines. Otherwise, it’s just a constant reminder that I’m too big to be accepted into the realm of the bold & the beautiful.
There are several designers that do outfits for plus size women but aren’t given opportunity to show off that side to their design as models selected during casting are size 8-10. This limits them. It also means plus size models don’t get a lot of gigs. Speaking from personal experience, getting a gig was frustratingly hard! There’s the issue of the cost of material, body shape etc and I understand cost implications are a serious issue but it’s all about risk and returns.
Think of it this way; Audrey is seated in the audience at a fashion show and this beautiful plus model comes out in a to die for outfit, Audrey thinks “wow, I could actually use that at Ciru’s wedding next weekend”. She’ll get in touch with the designer because she knows it’s someone who understands how to make garments suited to voluptuous frames. Audrey will then tell her friends, and you may get one or two more people to add to your list. You took a risk and got paid for it.
We need to see images and shows that we can relate to, a kind of reflection of ourselves. “Models are meant to be living hangers” is what my friend said when I brought it up. That makes sense to an extent, but do they ALL have to be small? Can we not continue to promote anorexia because let’s face it some models meet the body mass index physical criteria for it. All I’m asking for is in a set of 15, 5 are plus size; that every other fashion spread in this or that magazine features a plus size model.
Forget the rules Milan plays by, let’s set our own! Embrace how diverse women and men are in terms of height and size and push to see more plus size
models and designs in this industry. Let’s encourage healthy living and unique African fashion through our fashion shows and publications. PLUS SIZE BABY!