I have closely observed the fashion industries in Europe and New York for years. This year, I loved the fact that plus size became the norm and models of all different colours graced the runway during both Paris and New York Fashion Week. But something glorious occurred this Toronto Women's Fashion Week and it should not go unnoticed. People were moved to tears by a particular runway show. It smashed down barriers and set a new standard going forward in the Canadian fashion industry.
It was one of the most talked-about shows, that of a young First Nations designer named Lesley Hampton. The first time I met Lesley, she was 20 years old. She was a student at fashion college but it was obvious that she had a wise head on her shoulders. I got the feeling she was a lot older than me (and I'm eight years her senior). I mean, don't get me wrong, she didn't physically look older, It was just the way she carried herself with such grace and wisdom. No one knew her name back then, but she was determined she wanted all body types, all races, all abilities and all heights represented on the runway and in the fashion industry.
Fast forward two years and her collections have appeared in Vogue UK, Vogue Italia, Teen Vogue, Fox News and many more. The most intriguing thing is that this 22-year-old designer worked damn hard to have models ranging from a size two to 22 on this year's runway. She is single-handedly crushing barriers that have prevented women from feeling represented in media for decades. She cast models in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s. Goodbye, ageism. She cast models of different genders, an amputee model, an Indian model, ones who were Asian, Indigenous and the list goes on.
I watched her personally sew, measure and cut garments for 15 models ranging from size two up to 22. This is insane. It happens so rarely it needs to be heard and appreciated. Here are 10 photos of one of the most diverse runway shows Canada has ever seen.
1. Adrianne Haslet burst onto the modelling scene last season when she modelled in Toronto Women's Fashion Week and Kim Kardashian shared the video of her walking on the runway. Haslet spends her time campaigning for amputee rights, ballroom dancing, modelling, acting and regularly trains for marathons.
2. Nini Amerlise was this year's winner of Super Model Canada. Nini campaigns for diversity in the fashion industry and was part of a series of Be Body Aware earlier in the year and was published in Vogue Italia.
3. Rayne Nadurata is a very successful model with Dulcedo Models in Toronto.
"I feel like the fashion industry tokenizes us just to broaden their audience spectrum and have more people come in, which is definitely a marketing strategy," she said in a recent Instagram post.
"But I also think it's great that big companies are bringing light to what we're bringing out there. It would be just nice for them to employ us for it." Well said, Rayne.
4. Daniela Lombardi joined the fashion industry this year with the founding of her campaign Canadian Curvies, a project all about promoting diversity in the industry. She is a proud mother and her children and family were cheering her on as she took to the runway for Toronto Women's Fashion Week.
5. Melissa Shannon, also known on Instagram as "Voluptuous Model," is also a big advocate for every "body" to be represented in the fashion industry. She is signed with an agency notorious for promoting curves, BnM Models Toronto.
6. Damaris is newly signed with BnM Models. She is definitely one to watch in the upcoming year.
7. Bree Ahmed has modelled for years on the Toronto fashion scene. Her flawless curves make regular appearances on shows such as Marilyn Denis and The Social.
8. Laroe Goveia is signed with BnM Models. She continues to model flawlessly, proving that beauty isn't about age and you model for fashion weeks and campaigns no matter your age. Thank you, Laroe, for smashing down those barriers for people everywhere!
10. Karyn Inder was published in Vogue Italia earlier this year as part of the Be Body Aware Project. She has recently packed up her bags and moved to New York City with a dream to further her modelling career.
For more on diversity, see Be Body Aware
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