Melbourne Fashion Festival accused of snubbing plus-size models

Curve models have been criticized by a major Australian fashion event for a “deliberate” lack of size variety on the catwalks.

The accusation that the Melbourne Fashion Festival (MFF) decided not to select a large enough number of plus size models was raised both on and off the runway.

According to modeling agency Bella Management executive and size diversity activist Chelsea Bonner, MFF’s board has made a “really clear decision not to select models over size 12-14”.

“There is simply no excuse this year, it was such a deliberate casting direction.

“They were repeatedly introduced to each of our models up to size 22 and my director in Melbourne kept asking why they weren’t selecting models over size 14 and those emails were simply ignored.”

Jess Sito, one of two plus-size models to walk the final MFF show, said the experience made her feel “outcast.”

“It didn’t feel right to me that there were only two plus size models and two limited edition models,” Ms. Sito said.

“It really sucked and I felt like I was a symbolic ethnic fat man and that I was only there to tick off what didn’t feel right.”

Of the cohort of about 30 models who entered the final show, only five were “diversity models,” including models with curves and models with disabilities, according to Ms. Sito.

In an interview with NCA NewsWire, MFF said it has “drawn models and representatives from all walks of life” and featured unconventional talent on its 10 premium catwalks.

“The festival cares deeply about accessibility, diversity and inclusiveness and will continue to place a strong emphasis on this through our programs and participation in future events,” the spokesperson said.

The festival also featured the Fabulous And Trendy (FAT) Plus-Size Runway, a dedicated runway for 16-24 models, and a plus size market.

Ms Sito said she was in tears after trying on for the final show, commenting on how the clothes fit her despite the size 16 model being forced to try on a size 12.

“I cried after trying on because I really struggle and a lot of fat people struggle with the feeling that clothes don’t fit when clothes should fit them,” she said.

“At that moment, I felt like I shouldn’t be there.”

Ms. Bonner confirmed that some of the girls from her agency left the MFF fitting in tears because of the comments made, however, she said she did not believe these were personal attacks, but rather general hurtful comments made about those who had big bodies.

“(Fatophobia) corrupts the thinking of all participants, not just models. It corrupts stylists, casting directors, advertiser magazines,” she said.

A spokesperson for MFF said that MFF was not aware of the models who felt uncomfortable after fitting and action would be taken if the festival found out.

The lack of representation throughout the festival forced one model to take the stand, with Maya O’Connor wearing a shirt that read “WHERE THE FAT BITCHES? 10 SIZE DOES NOT COUNT! DO BETTER!” emblazoned on the back

Ms. O’Connor has walked numerous MFF shows this year and was appalled at the lack of variety after the body-positive movement pushed curvy models to the forefront of the fashion industry.

“What are we working for when we can just get to one festival and all that hard work gets cancelled? A group of people can sit down at a table and just decide they don’t care,” she said.

She said she saw visitors reading her shirt; however, most of them “turned their backs” on the message.

“It was like there was a huge elephant in the room and I just pointed it out and everyone was trying to turn a blind eye to it,” she said.

Ms. Bonner urged MFF to take a different direction in its casting choices in the years to come.

“I just hope they really think deeply about their direction for next year because it was offensive to everyone this year,” she said.

Originally published as Plus-size models outraged by ‘deliberate’ snub at Melbourne Fashion Festival