When Eden Miller's Spring 2014 collection heads down the runway at New York Fashion Week on Friday, it will be the first plus-size line to do so. Miller was selected as one of six designers to show her collection, dubbed Cabiria, at the Fashion Law Institute's showcase. Fashion blogs have been quick to run laudatory posts about Cabiria's debut. For example, Refinery29 says it's "truly one small step for style, one giant leap for plus acceptance." And the Daily Mail goes so far as to call the show a "victory" in the "size-zero war."
Is it really, though?
Kurt Soller, the fashion features editor at The Cut, says, "I wouldn't say it's a victory because it hasn't happened yet." He told The Atlantic Wire that he hadn't heard other fashion editors talking about the show, but to be fair, he hadn't asked. "Truthfully the fashion schedule is so busy . . . I think it's really hard for a small brand to break through at something like New York Fashion Week."
Almost all the top designers show at Fashion Week (at least the ones who want to sell their clothes in the U.S.), which makes it hard for anyone to stand out in the crowd. Fashion editors and buyers are notoriously crazed during the 8-day sprint, with shows running pretty much every hour. Miller told The Atlantic Wire, "I just want the same chance as everybody." To get it, she'll have to court the top editors and buyers to show up and see her designs. Whether or not that will happen remains unclear.
Miller says she "made an invite list that included buyers, bloggers, and influencers . . . including straight-size fashion influencers. I wanted to have as wide a scope as I could." She invited retail heavyweights like Nordstrom and Saks and said she particularly reached out to magazines that have featured plus-size fashion in the past, like Marie Claire and InStyle (both have monthly columns that feature plus-size designs). She's also counting on Redbook, the only major women's magazine to have already featured Cabiria, as well as plus-size bloggers like Nicolette Mason and Gabi Gregg. The Atlantic Wire contacted big glossies Elle, Lucky, and Glamour to see if they'd be sending editors to the show. None of them returned requests for comment.
Miller hopes that those who do show up don't view the collection through plus-size glasses. "The only thing that really is important to me about all of this, is that I'm fighting for legitimacy." She wants critics to say "'this is a good show' or 'this is a bad show.' That's all any of us in the plus-size market want."
Soller does think that the industry should pay more attention to plus-size fashion, "in the same way we should pay attention to [racial] diversity on the runways. The closer the runway can get to showing the variety in our real life, the better." Obviously, many industry observers would agree with him. The average American woman is a size 14. Meanwhile, models on the runway are typically size 0 (and white).
Still, the fashion industry has peddled the skinny-minny aesthetic for years, it's been slow to accept body diversity. Will Cabiria's pretty, high quality dresses (that go for about $200) court the attention of mainstream women's mags? Or Nordstom? It's possible. The show could make a dent in the industry's plus-size problem, but it's unlikely that Anna Wintour will show up, say "I love it!", and scrap next month's Vogue editorials to make room for fuller-figured features.
Soller says, "it's better to get people's attention in the off-season. It's really hard for any brand to break through the noise that is New York Fashion Week."
Photo via Madison Plus Select, used with permission.