A Recap of Fashion Week’s Lessons on Inclusive Marketing
For fashion brands, Fashion Week is the largest opportunity to market upcoming products to retail buyers, celebrities, trendsetters and everyday customers. Held in fashion capitals around the world — New York City, London, Milan and Paris — these weeklong events allow fashion brands (also known as fashion houses) to host carefully designed shows around each city.
Even though the couture high-end houses benefit from the support of everyday consumers, few of them make an effort to market to the average person. It’s historically rare to see multiple races, physical abilities, gender expressions and sizes reflected in the models on the runway. For years, there have been calls from the public for more diversity in Fashion Week shows. By comparing the inclusivity of the runway at the two most iconic Fashion Weeks — New York and Paris — it becomes clear inclusive marketing can drastically impact a company’s bottom line.
Over the years, diversity at Fashion Week has mainly focused on two categories: race and size. While racial diversity is now somewhat expected, plus-size diversity at NYFW has varied drastically. In September 2022, the event saw a total of 49 plus-size models; that number fell to 31 in February 2023 before shooting up to 70 at the most recent Fashion Week in September 2023. Few brands consistently dress and celebrate plus-size bodies during Fashion Week, but Christian Siriano and Collina Strada have built reputations for being two fashion houses that plus-size consumers can count on.
However, this year, one of the last brands to show managed to knock these established fashion houses off the catwalk with a unique and radically inclusive show. Selkie — a company known for whimsical, ultra-feminine apparel — captured the adoration of potential customers across the internet by advertising their Spring/Summer 2024 collection on models of drastically different sizes, skin tones and physical abilities. The choice paid off almost immediately: TikTok videos lauding the show garnered millions of views, with a single video from fashion writer Mandy Lee scoring more than 3 million views alone. New and old fans alike celebrated Selkie for allowing them to see what the clothes would actually look like on their own bodies. Just weeks after the show, the entire collection, which had been available for preorder, was sold out on Selkie’s website.
Considered a more traditional fashion capital than New York, brands showing at Paris Fashion Week are more likely to work with thin models that fulfill Eurocentric beauty ideals. In the last three PFWs, there were 33 plus-size models in September 2022 shows, 40 in the February 2023 shows and just 28 at the latest shows in September 2023.
Despite the lower representation, two couture brands stood out for including larger models on the runway. Balenciaga, popular with plus-size customers because of their larger sizes and oversized designs, finally included plus-size models in their show. At Alexander McQueen, plus-sized and racially diverse models also graced the catwalk, showcasing a new level of inclusivity in high-end fashion.
However, no one brand in Paris achieved the praise that Selkie did in New York. Selkie took advantage of its biggest advertising opportunity of the year by differentiating itself from other fashion brands. Instead of fighting to fit in with the established fashion industry approach to Fashion Week, Selkie emerged as a disrupter: It listened to often-ignored consumer needs and marketed quality products that directly addressed them. By bucking the status quo, Selkie imparts an important message to the marketing industry: Providing a clear remedy to consumer struggles results in a loyal customer base willing to endorse your product far and wide.
Let us know your favorite brands that represented inclusion well during Fashion Week.