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“I didn’t want my first runway to be a plus-sized show,” Iskra Lawrence, walking for Chromat at New York Fashion Week, said backstage at the show while getting her makeup done. “So this really was the perfect show for me.”
Lawrence has had a unique career trajectory. After being a competitive swimmer at a young age, her start in modeling got rocky when her body began to develop. Widening hips got her dropped by her agency, and as her body continued to develop — taking her out of fashion’s defined statistics for “straight” size models but not rising to the level of plus — possible agents began to discourage her, saying she’d never find work.
“When I first started modeling, people would tell me that I would never get any work in New York,” Lawrence revealed. “So to now not only be working here but to walk in New York Fashion Week is a big deal.” Indeed it is. With the rise of Instagram and through an incredible amount of hard work, Lawrence has become part of a new generation of models. She’s a social media influencer with a whopping 2.5 million followers and counting on Instagram, bringing loads of visibility to whatever brand she works for, a fact that some like Aerie have capitalized on. That company has flown the model all over the U.S., and even to Toronto recently, for in-store appearances.
But she uses her platform and reach for more than just promoting brands she works with. Though her start included snaps of her from lingerie shoots and sassy memes, her direction has taken a turn to address mental health, body positivity, and the superficiality of social media. The model made headlines when she vowed not to use Photoshop on Instagram at the start of this year. For the most part, that vow extends as much as possible to her fashion work, meaning Chromat’s less-is-more beauty look falls squarely in line with her aesthetic.
This year Lawrence had extended that platform as a managing editor at Runway Riot, a post she quietly left recently. Next month, to continue offering longform content to fans, she plans to launch her very own YouTube channel.
In addition to that fame, she’s part of a growing generation of models who sit between the industry standards of straight and plus sizes. Agency mates at JAG Models like Laney Degrasse also occupy this space and are vocal about the need for change.
“You know what’s really awesome about being in that lineup and looking at all these girls?” Lawrence said after the preshow run-through. “Some of them have thigh gaps and some don’t, and I don’t have to feel like I have to look like them; I’m here because of the way I already look!”
But for the brand it was more than just about Lawrence’s look, it was also about her confidence and what she stood for.
“Well, I actually met her because I’m involved in the Straight/Curve documentary, and I started following her, and I really loved her message of body positivity,” Chromat creative director Becca McCharen told us shortly after the show. “We cast first and foremost with ‘Do you walk well?,’ and she had a super-great stomp! But she also has, like, this radiating inner confidence, and those are the kind of women that we want to cast; you’re confident in your body, you’re unafraid and unapologetic, and she’s definitely all of that.”