Fashion models aren't known for speaking up. In fact, they're not known for speaking at all. But a group of so-called plus-size models is proving just how powerful models can be when they do.
A new shoot in the May 2015 issue of Glamour Iceland spotlights the models of Alda, a professional collective formed by the top plus-size models in the industry. Kicked off in 2014, the models of Alda have been helping each other gain leverage in an industry that's overlooked them for so long, and together, they're booking gigs that are prompting people not only to look, but to listen.
The eight-page spread, shot by photographer Silja Magg, features Ashley Graham, Marquita Pring, Julie Henderson, Inga Eiriksdottir and Danielle Redman, the five models whom teamed up to cofound Alda after their agency shut down its plus-size division, according to DNAInfo.
"We had all worked together for many years before our agency closed a lot of their divisions including plus size, which is the one we were in," Eiriksdottir said in a press release from Glamour Iceland. "I contacted the girls I knew and the ones that had been the most successful in the business to see how we could, as a group, have impact on the business. We met secretly for a few months, came up with a business plan, and then met with all the major agencies in New York. Most of them had never represented models bigger than a U.S. size 6, so we didn't know how they would react."
As it turns out, by January, mega-agency IMG was not only enthusiastic about signing all five Alda models but about going one step further: incorporating them into the regular model roster.
"We want to be an ageless, raceless, weightless agency," IMG Models senior vice president and managing director Ivan Bart told Cosmopolitan.com.
That said, signing to an agency is one thing; booking jobs, from runway shows to magazine spreads to advertising campaigns, is another. Overall progress has been notable, but slow.
Models in what the industry deems the "plus-size" range (upwards of a size 10 or 12, unofficially) have found success in ad campaigns such as Robyn Lawley's gigs for Barneys and Pantene, and "in-between" model Myla Dalbesio's buzzed-about gig for Calvin Klein. Still, fashion week shows have been harder to come by, with few designers incorporating curvier models onto their runways, to the extent that those who do are still considered headline-worthy news.
The slow progress of plus-size models onto runways epitomizes the challenge these models face: Most industry experts are quick to note their beauty and talent, but seem to balk at considering them equal or similar enough to cast alongside so-called "straight size" models. Designers only stage one runway show at a time; magazines and brands like Glamour Iceland, on the other hand, may see themselves as having more leeway to cast "unconventional" models, given their many projects.
The goal, of course, is to eventually filter such models into the fashion industry's regular rotation, to have them considered for any old issue of Vogue or Harper's Bazaar instead of siloed off in their own "special" spreads or shows. In the meantime, dedicated plus-size shoots such as Glamour Iceland's bring extra attention to the models and the deep-seated industry norms they're challenging.
"It shouldn't matter if you are a size 2 or 12," said Eiriksdottir in a press statement. "Every model should be represented equally."