Christian Siriano turned heads at his Isle of Capri-themed fashion show. But it wasn't because of the frayed straw sun hats, the vibrant colors, crisp whites and flowy, feminine silhouettes that he sent down the runway. His choice of models was the real highlight.
That was made evident by the reaction of front-row guests, including Kelly Osbourne, Janet Mock, Christina Hendricks and Pamela Anderson, who joined in the cheering for the five full-figure models the Annapolis native used to show off his spring collection. Models of color also accounted for more than a third of the 32 models that he sent down the catwalk.
"It is important to represent some diversity in the runway because that's the world we live in, and that is what the customer is," Siriano said.
This season, the top trend of New York Fashion Week was not a type of clothing or a favorite hue or fabric. Inclusion took center stage.
Reshma Querishi, a model who was the victim of an acid attack, opened for Archana Kochhar and also walked for Vaishali Couture.
Liris Crosse, a full-figure model and Baltimore native, walked among traditional sample-size models for designer Byron Lars.
A handful of transgender models participated in the Stevie Boi fashion presentation.
Sixty-six-year-old African-American supermodel Pat Cleveland closed out Son Jang Wan's '70s-themed fashion show.
Designer Tracy Reese's collection was a true celebration of all women — featuring models of all ages, shades and sizes.
Kenneth Cole's fall campaign prominently featured model Lauren Wasser, who wears a prosthetic leg as a result of toxic shock syndrome. In the campaign, Wasser wears cropped pants revealing the metal prosthesis.
H&M's fall campaign featured transgender model Hari Nef, full-figure model Paloma Elsesser and '70s supermodel Lauren Hutton.
"I think that New York has been more politically charged when it comes to diversity during Fashion Week than any other of the major cities; it makes sense because we all love this city and the characters that live here," said David Hart, the menswear designer and Severna Park native. Last year, Hart's entire jazz-inspired collection was shown on black male models.
"Designers are focusing on clients and not catering to the department stores as they may have in the past, so we are more in touch with the people buying our clothing, and we want them to feel as though they are a part of our brand," Hart said.
"Culture is key, and diversity is more important that ever. New York is leading the charge by including everyone on the runway. The shows are more culturally diverse than ever."
Hart, who designed Siriano's wedding suit, sat front-row at his show, which won favorable notices from outlets such as The New York Times.
"Christian not only thoughtfully put together a diverse cast of women, but he included curvy women in a way that was authentic and relatable to his fabulous clients and fans." Hart said. "It's a refreshing approach, and Christian has always been the rebel of [Fashion Week] and he does what he wants, which is why his girls and fans love him and his clothing so much."
African-American supermodel Bethann Hardison predicted more diverse collections weeks ago when she spoke with The Baltimore Sun.
She referenced a turning point last season when she observed a half-dozen black models — most had natural hair and dark complexions — walking in a show.
"I was just so proud," she said.
"Last season, people were saying the shows just felt better and looked better. You know why? Because it's diversified," she said. "I feel confident going into Fashion Week."
Having the Council of Fashion Designers of America send a letter to the fashion community that encouraged diverse model casting this season was also a victory for Hardison.
"What's really great is that I started these conversations in 2007. Now it's a conversation everywhere. Race is in our face. This is good. It's being talked about. The bad news is it has to be talked about," Hardison said. "At the end of the day, we don't have to talk about it. You need to do something about it."