Why the debut of plus-size models in Versace’s runway show is something to celebrate: ‘This was a declaration!’

Precious Lee, Alva Claire and Jill Kortleve make history on the Versace runway in Milan. (Photo: Getty Images)
Precious Lee, Alva Claire and Jill Kortleve make history on the Versace runway in Milan. (Photo: Getty Images)

Curve models Precious Lee, Alva Claire and Jill Kortleve made history last Friday as they walked the runway for Versace at Milan Fashion Week, being the first plus-size models cast by the luxury fashion house.

The debut of the Spring/Summer 2021 collection made headlines not just for its out-of-this-world theme but also for its notably inclusive casting. Donatella Versace herself even posted a personal welcome to Lee, introducing her to the “Versace family.”

While the famed designer’s praises are sweet, it’s the impact of putting different body types on a major runway that is most important to understand.

“The House of Versace is known across the world,” Claire tells Yahoo Life. “To walk for such an iconic brand holds such impact and importance for women like me, who have always loved high fashion but up until recently haven’t seen themselves reflected on the runway in major fashion capitals across the world.”

Claire has done editorial work for a number of brands and publications and has appeared on runways in London and New York — most notably for Nike back in February. What the model hasn’t done, along with most others in the curve industry, is represent a legendary fashion house in a city less known for pushing the boundaries. Women’s Wear Daily recently reported on the fashion capitol’s delayed response to the industry’s move toward inclusivity, seemingly only acknowledged prior to this season by Fendi’s inclusion of two curve models back in February.

Laura Brioschi, an Italian-based blogger who founded the Body Positive Catwalk in Milan to start a conversation about the need for inclusivity on Milan’s runways back in 2018, sees the Versace statement as powerful.

“I’m so proud to watch curve models in Milan’s important fashion show like Versace,” she tells Yahoo Life, acknowledging that three plus-size women in an otherwise straight-size show is a feat. “This is the first time and it is a big big big step up.”

Katie Sturino, a body acceptance advocate and founder of Megababe, shares a similar sentiment. “The heat on that runway was incredible. The fact that they cast three plus models was so significant,” she tells Yahoo Life. “Often times brands send one plus girl down the runway and they want an award for it. This was a declaration!”

Lee and Kortleve didn’t immediately respond to Yahoo Life’s request for comment. Both women, however, shared their gratitude and praise for one another with posts to their social media platforms.

While style blogger and creator of #FatAtFashionWeek Kellie Brown is happy to see different bodies represented, “I’m not celebrating just yet,” she tells Yahoo Life.

“I want to see size inclusivity as a mainstay, not as a trend for one season. Fashion won’t have much of a future if it continues to ignore so many waiting and willing customers,” she explains. “Countless larger-bodied humans have been banging down doors essentially begging for brands to see us, create for us and to take our money. Seeing Precious Lee on the Versace runway was empowering. She better be booked next season and the season after.”

Only time will tell just how this moment will inform the future of fashion. In the meantime, Lee is cherishing her involvement and what it means to young people watching.

“Not one little Black girl can say they can’t because we can, we always could and when you stay true, you will,” she wrote. “I’m a Versace Hottie.”

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