If the world's top runways can feel a little monochromatic sometimes, well, that's because they are. The fashion world is often scrutinized for its lack of diversity, and this week, Instagram has decided to do something about it.
On Monday, the photo sharing platform launched #RunwayForAll, an initiative focused on igniting a dialogue about the need for more diversity in fashion. Over the course of the week, Instagram will feature the stories of five models from wildly diverse backgrounds and circumstances, models who according to Instagram are "redefining industry standards and making sure there’s room on the #RunwayForAll."
Among them are Shaun Ross, a gay albino male model who counts Beyoncé as a fan; Mama Cax, a Haitian model whose leg was amputated when she was just 18, and Clementine Desseaux, a French model whose body doesn't fit fashion's stereotypical mold of what women should look like.
"Our goal is to highlight some of the bravest and most creative models on Instagram who are building their own audiences and telling their own stories,” said Instagram's fashion and arts lead, Kristen Joy Watts. “These breakout stars aren’t conforming to the industry’s traditional mold, and in fact, are redefining it.”
Check out the first three posts below, and join in on a conversation that in the future, will hopefully last longer than just one week.
“#RunwayForAll is a world where everyone is treated the same,” says Shaun Ross (@shaundross). When he started modeling nearly a decade ago, Shaun was the only male model of color with albinism. “I remember when I first entered the industry all I saw were models that looked the same,” he says. “Now here we are almost 10 years later, and I see the choice I’ve made has helped the industry to see beauty in many ways, such as casting models and rising icons like @winnieharlow, @jilly_peppa and more to help lead the fight with me to diversity.” When he started, Shaun was one of a few openly gay models in the industry. “Agents always told male models to be masculine, but that was never the case for me. I never wanted to hide my sexuality,” he says. “I’d rather be myself.” Photo by @shaundross
“#RunwayForAll means any teenager feels represented when they open a magazine or watch a fashion show,” says Mama Cax (@caxmee). Mama grew up in Haiti, lives in New York City and never aspired to be a model — “not only because there were very few dark models on magazine covers but also because I grew up with very little knowledge of the fashion industry,” she says. “Eight years ago, after getting my leg amputated, the idea of being a model was even more far-fetched.” Today, Mama is modeling and doing other things that she was told there was no audience for, like sharing tips for traveling as a black female amputee. “The majority of humans do not look like the mainstream idea of beauty,” she says. “One of the greatest barriers is not belonging. Through modeling I hope to show that beauty does not always wear a size zero and beauty does not always walk on two limbs.” Every day this week, we’ll be sharing the story of a model who is redefining industry standards and making sure there’s room on the #RunwayForAll. Photo of @caxmee by @simonhuemaen
“#RunwayforAll is not so much about what we look like anymore but more about what we represent,” says Clémentine Desseaux (@bonjourclem), who grew up in France. “I was always way bigger and taller than everyone when I was growing up, and I had those freckles,” she says. “When I saw the first plus models out there, I started thinking about trying it out. At that point I had no idea it would take me to where I am now.” Three years ago, Clementine moved to New York with $2,000 to her name and never looked back. “My size and look were in the way of me feeling invincible when I was young,” she says. “I hope I was the last generation of women to think like that. Role model is the new top model.” Every day this week, we’ll be sharing the story of a model who is redefining industry standards and making sure there’s room on the #RunwayForAll. Photo of @bonjourclem by @emmaandhercamera