“The Power of Plus” by Gianluca Russo is about body diversity in fashion


If there’s one phrase to describe the life and career of fashion journalist Gianluca Russo at this exact moment, it’s “full circle.”

He has just published his first book, “The Power of Plus: Inside Fashion’s Size-Inclusivity Revolution”. It’s a deep dive into how the industry historically and currently approaches plus size representation, and features conversations with designers and personalities who inspired her interest in the subject of the book. On Wednesday, the Guilderland native will return home for a book signing, lecture and discussion hosted by his former University of Albany professor, Times Union journalist Steve Barnes, at the Guilderland Public Library.

“It’s really exciting to go home and to my hometown library, and be around my old English teachers, Steve, all those people who impacted my life,” Russo said. “Being able to reintroduce myself and show who I am now and what I’ve achieved is a big moment that I never thought of until it happened.

“I never thought I would write a book and talk about it,” he added.

From pitch to research and writing, “The Power of Plus” is the culmination of a three-year journey for Russo. The book’s themes go back further, to its immersion in the realm of fashion journalism.

Fashion has a reputation for being cutthroat and exclusive. The same terms could be applied to his journalism. But as the industry began to come to terms with inclusion and body diversity in earnest in the late 2010s, opportunities grew for young writers like Russo with an enthusiasm and commitment to shed light on these issues. .

“Fashion journalism, like Fashion Week, is about exclusivity. Many people struggle. Even a good idea was not enough. It’s more about why you’re the only one bringing something to the fore,” he said. “What brought me to body diversity was that it was so new, something that I could connect directly to and provide perspective.

“From 2010 to, really, 2015, there was an undeniable momentum around body diversity, and I came in at a perfect time,” Russo said. “It was about being fearlessly ready for conversation, even when it was difficult.”

As Russo points out, this conversation isn’t just about fashion. It connects to larger societal themes of respect for marginalized people and their voices. Through “The Power of Plus” and its co-founded digital community of the same name, Russo seeks to do its part to create spaces for its stakeholders to engage and continue this dialogue.

“This conversation is really relevant to a lot of us, it’s really kind of a community issue; it has value and is more than a passing trend in society,” Russo said. “I try to include so many different voices – different races, genders, social statuses – to show how important this is and how it can change lives.

“In 2015, 2016 fashion was so closed (to these topics),” he added. “Now you see more of an array of races, more venues and spaces for people to come in and allow more perspectives to be shared.”

Russo sees improvement when it comes to embracing diversity. But as he researched and interviewed plus-size models and designers for his book, Russo discovered that despite all the advances that have been made, more changes are still needed.

The Power of Plus: author conference and dedication with Gianluca Russo

When: Wednesday, September 7, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Guilderland Public Library, 2228 Western Ave., Guilderland

Cost: Free

More information: guilderlandlibrary.org

To learn more about Gianluca Russo, visit russog.com. “The Power of Plus” is available for purchase at all major booksellers and outlets

“What surprised me the most was how unchanged parts of the fashion industry are,” he said. “There are a lot of practices that were huge problems in the 90s that are still happening today.

“I open the book talking about Emme, the first plus-size model,” Russo continued. “She had some really shocking and terrible experiences that she had to come out of. Emme led the way, but there are still so many in the same position she held for years. His story has shown how much work remains to be done.

The main element of true inclusiveness isn’t just about providing more clothing options or ending harmful rhetoric. Continued good faith commitment and trust building from designers and companies whose communities were previously shunned is needed.

Russo sees some designers who have succeeded in this. It recognizes Christian Siriano, winner of the “Project Runway” in 2007, for having made diversity the norm in its design. Siriano was interviewed for ‘The Power of Plus’ and his inclusion allowed Russo to engage with the figure which opened his eyes to fashion and its many possibilities.

“It’s about who to go to: an elite group where being very thin and rich is the norm; 68% of American women are considered plus size and they are conditioned not to be one,” Russo said. “Companies and designers need to bridge that gap and accept the customer and show them they’re welcome. How many women have seen something and said, “I love this, but I could never wear this?” They’ve never seen someone who looks like them feel truly embraced.

“Christian Siriano is constantly showing off various body types and normalizing it, so he doesn’t have to shout it from the rooftops,” Russo said. “Few creators do it as well as he does. One of my kind of earliest memories in life is that he won “Project Runway.” Having a conversation with him about this for the book seemed to come full circle.


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