The Plus-Size Debate at Melbourne Fashion Week

Akira MFW Secret Garden Runway 2021_NaomiRahim_043
Candace Little

Lifestyle Writer

Nov 16, 2021

It’s Melbourne Fashion Week which means the debate on size diversity is back on the table, frustratingly so. After almost two years of stretchy pants, it’s hard to imagine a piece of clothing not designed to fit your body, but these issues run deep and can serve to exclude a large portion of our society from a really basic need – clothing.

Aje MFW Secret Garden Runway 20210__134
Aje MFW Secret Garden Runway. Photography by Naomi Rahim

It was the inaugural Opening Night Runway at Regents Theatre’s Plaza Ballroom last night. Throngs of diverse models took to the runway, proudly waving pride flags and sporting gender-inclusive pieces that spoke to a new era of comfort dressing. And while the evening ended on a diversity high note with LGBTIQ+ advocate and plus size trans model AJ Clementine taking to the runway, it remains debatable how far reaching that diversity goes and if their push for size inclusivity is genuine or just a one night wonder.

Plus Size Model Keeara Byrnes
Model Keeara Byrnes

Model Keeara Byrnes, who wears a size 14, echoed these concerns following the outrage of Sydney’s Fashion Week and its dismal attempt at showcasing a diverse line-up of sizes on the runway. According to Byrnes, plus size models were invited, but only to sit in the audience, and the same thing is happening in Melbourne.

“A lot of my friends who are also considered ‘bigger models’ were invited along as a PR exercise. It was a false show of diversity, because the shows that said they were being diverse were actually only using models that were a 12. That’s not “plus size”, that’s a normal healthy woman,” Keeara said.

“It annoys me that we still have to have these conversations. Sydney had little to no diversity. We were not represented on the runway. It was all just a publicity stunt.”

Alemais Melbourne Fashion Week
Alemais MFW Secret Garden Runway 2021. Photographer Naomi Rahi

While fashion stylist and CEO of Threadicated, Danielle Johansen, agrees that Fashion Week has always been a showcase of mostly white and skinny models, she doesn’t necessarily subscribe to the idea that all labels must cater for all sizes.

Danielle Johansen
Danielle Johansen, CEO and founder of Threadicated

“I’m a size 10 and even I have felt excluded from brands that I had otherwise felt matched my style and budget. It’s disappointing when you don’t fit the mold of a brand you love,” Danielle says.

“However, I believe each brand is allowed to choose who they design for, what styles and shapes they use. I’m weary of dictating a brands aesthetic. There is also the other side of the spectrum of brands that only design for size 18 plus, so they are also excluding smaller sized models and consumers. I believe there is a brand for everyone, you just have to find it.”

Melbourne Fashion Week Acler
Photography by Naomi Rahim

With Melbourne Fashion Week just started, it’s too soon to tell if they will match their diverse city landscapes with a diverse line-up of models that can make fashion relevant and in-line with society sizing norms. I propose that it is less about the models, and more about the diversity in brands being showcased and the knock-on effect it will have on the runway. I look forward to more discourse and debate on the topic. Perhaps we will one day see a Fashion Week that is inspired by the beauty of our shapes, angles and curves.

Helen O'Connor Melbourne Fashion Week
Photography by Naomi Rahim

Melbourne Fashion Week runs from 15 to 21 November and features more than 250 designers and 300 retailers across more than 100 different events and sessions.


By Candace Little

Lifestyle Writer

Candace Little is an experienced journalist and writes for both The Carousel and Women Love Tech. Candace is the writer of the award-winning short film Every Other Weekend.



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