Most have probably heard about IMG Models’ first ever ‘brawn’ division, a self-coined term for big and tall male models, when it made headlines a couple of weeks ago. The news was coupled with the hiring of Zach Miko, an actor, comedian and writer who was the face of Target’s big and tall line in 2015. While many applauded the move, it really got me thinking, “Does it really matter?”
Image: IMG Models
I’m not saying that models should only be statuesque and Greek god-like. But are we that insecure as a society that we need to have someone who looks somewhat close to how we do, fronting fashion campaigns in order to feel good about ourselves?
Take it from a guy who has zero representation in the international fashion scene. Maybe I’m the exception but being Malay, I never felt the need to look or be a certain way. And there definitely was no international Malay male model to look up to or make me feel like I could look good in clothes. Most male models were Caucasian, with a smattering of darker-skinned ones. It didn’t bother me one bit. Nor did I see it as a problem.
To say, “I didn’t know I could wear that until he or she came along” is arbitrary. Fashion can’t always be designed for everyone but there is something for every one in fashion. I for one would not look great in a pair of Saint Laurent jeans. But Hedi Slimane obviously did not base his designs on the measurements of a 1.7-metre tall Asian with chunky thighs. Do I hold it against the brand for not creating jeans that I would look good in? No. Do I still admire the designs and attitude that the clothes bring? Sure but it’s not for me and that’s perfectly fine. There are more brands out there that cater to my build and with skinny jeans that make me look less like an overstuffed sausage. If the colour or cut doesn’t flatter you, it’s not the fault of the designer; get another colour or head to another brand that suits.
“But we shouldn’t have to.” Really? If one brand could clothe every shape, size, style and skin colour, we wouldn’t have the diverse offering of brands that we do now. The fashion industry, hypothetically, would be a communist organisation of just that one brand. And that is scary. Diversity in fashion should mean the availability of many different choices as opposed to having each and every unique trait on a billboard or the cover of a magazine.
There will never be an end to wanting more to be represented because there is no limit to our unique characteristics. Why leave out the minorities that make up the “minorities”? Asians are not just the Godfrey Gaos or the Jae Yoos. Asians are also Vietnamese, Cambodians, Indians, Indonesians and many other ethnicities within and part of the region. There is literally an entire globe of differences so if we want diversity in fashion and equal representation, why stop at a generalised image of any “minority”?
We don’t need the industry to open its doors to more darker-skinned models, plus-size models, transgendered models, Asian models or any other uniqueness that’s not represented enough. Don’t get me wrong; it would be great if it does. But what we really need is to stop seeing it as a problem – stop seeing colour, ethnicity, sexual orientation or size as an issue. We’re all different. As soon as we learn to truly accept it, we won’t need the fashion industry to value our self-worth. Because essentially, fashion is more of an attitude brought about by matching clothes and accessories together and less to do with being the “first (insert unique characteristic)” model.