News & Runway

Only One Fashion House Would Send Clothes to Vogue UK for the Ashley Graham Cover Shoot

What an absolute honor! My first #vogue cover!! Thank you to everyone at @britishvogue! #covergirl #beautybeyondsize #liveyourdreams

A photo posted by A S H L E Y G R A H A M (@theashleygraham) on

In one week we’ll release our annual magazine cover diversity report, but in the meantime, here’s a little preview. After tallying 677 cover model appearances across 48 top international fashion publications, we found that only 6 (0.9 percent) of the leading ladies were plus-size. Which is why, when British Vogue editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman tapped curve model Ashley Graham to front the glossy’s first issue of 2017, we welcomed this small but promising start.

Of course, rarely do body positive triumphs come without troubling caveats, and Graham’s first Vogue cover is no exception to the rule. In her January editor’s letter, Shulman reveals that brands were reluctant to provide clothes for the Patrick Demarchelier-lensed cover shoot. Shulman praises Stuart Vevers of the newly rebranded, financially flourishing Coach for stepping up to the plate and drags (though not by name) those that “flatly refused” to contribute.

“The shoot was put together fairly last-minute and we are all very grateful to the people at Coach who, under the creative direction of Stuart Vevers, moved speedily to provide clothes for us that had to come from outside their sample range. They were enthusiastic about dressing a woman who is not a standard model, but sadly there were other houses that flatly refused to lend us their clothes.”

Shulman remarks, “It seems strange to me that while the rest of the world is desperate for fashion to embrace broader definitions of physical beauty, some of our most famous fashion brands appear to be traveling in the opposite – and, in my opinion, unwise – direction.”

Here we run into the same arguments that industry insiders set forth when Leslie Jones found herself without a designer dress for the Ghostbusters premiere. Sample sizes run between size zero and size four, and larger requests require more time, effort and resources to construct. Thus, brands (supposedly) can’t accommodate “last-minute” shoots and can’t be blamed for operating according to well-established industry rules, right? Wrong. Just ask Tim Gunn.

Shulman reportedly faced similar issues when outfitting the models in British Vogue’s irresponsibly named “Real Issue,” even though those women were mostly, if not all, straight-sized. In our Instagirl-obsessed times, brands are unwilling to outfit those who lack celebrity allure: “It isn’t just to do with sizes,” Shulman told Good Morning Britain back in October. “This is to do with an attempt to show that actually you can put your clothes on people of all sizes, professions, ages, and it can look great.”

And, while our forums did note that Graham’s look was more “high street” than “high fashion” — new Coach is known for chasing a downtown vibe — the model certainly did look great in her olive green boiler suit, backwards leather newsboy cap and DIY jacket. She, Shulman and Coach crushed their attempt, haters be damned. Still, it’s scary that even fashion bibles and A-list models aren’t immune to this kind of BS.

[ via the Cut ]