Why do fashion designers have such a problem with normality?


Jill Kortleve is fashion’s new darling. She was ‘the bride’ in Chanel’s couture show on Monday, and as quaint/old fashioned as that sounds, it’s always a crowning achievement in a model’s career.

Then again, despite all their talk of being agents of change, despite their embrace of gender fluidity (one brand recently responded to a stylist’s email question about whether the bags we they had sent for a photo shoot were aimed at men and women stating that “gender is so 2019”), there is a range of issues where the fashion world exhibits surprisingly quaint/old-fashioned values.

Normality is one. Ultra thin it can do it, ad infinitum. Size 20 plus? No problem, up to a point. At the start of the naughtiest years, designers threw themselves over themselves to work with Beth Ditto. Ditto, funny, feisty and fiercely voiced, was an early poster child for body positivity. But she was an outlier. And hardly “normal”. Fashion loves extremes. Dominatrixes with broad shoulders and 14 cm heels are finally replaced by barefoot women. Polarizing twists are the propulsion that turns the fashion wheel. Average no.

Even brands whose bread and butter sell normal clothes to normal women like to give an edgy top a spin on the catwalk. An extreme body can help spread the idea that they are doing something daring.

What is more daring if you are in the business of normal clothing is to use Kortleve. Of Dutch, Indonesian, Indian and Surinamese descent, she is exceptionally beautiful in every way. But at 26, five foot seven and UK size 12, his body is normal. This makes Kortleve’s ascendancy remarkable. First spotted by Nike, she appeared on the catwalks of Alexander McQueen in 2019, then Michael Kors and Max Mara. She has modeled for Zara, Fenty beauty and H&M. Mass brands are quicker to embrace body diversity because they have to sell clothes to millions of women. Luxury brands don’t.


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