In an Unconventional Milan Fashion Week, Versace Finally Brings Full-Figured Models to Its Runway

Precious Lee walks the runway at the Versace fashion show during the Milan Women’s Fashion Week on September 25, 2020, in Milan, Italy.
Precious Lee walks the runway at the Versace fashion show during the Milan Women’s Fashion Week on September 25, 2020, in Milan, Italy.
Photo: Handout/Versace Press Office (Getty Images)

Much has changed since the last Milan Fashion Week in February, but while much of the fashion world has adapted to our socially-distanced reality by going virtual, Versace chose to make another major change to its traditional format: For the first time in the luxury house’s 42-year-old history, plus-sized models walked the runway of its sea-themed show.

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Precious Lee, Alva Claire and Jill Kortleve—all women of color—walked Versace’s catwalk on Friday. Aside from further diversifying what has typically been a primarily Caucasian roster of models each season in Milan fulfilling a promise hinted at by Donatella Versace in a 2008 interview with Time (h/t W magazine):

“Plus-sized women shouldn’t think of themselves as a size,” she said. “They should think of themselves as women with rich goals in life. Size doesn’t mean, really, anything. You can carry your size with pride and dress in a way that you like.”

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It was a lovely sentiment, but it would sadly take Versace 12 more years to make good on that statement of egalitarianism. In fact, as W notes, she almost seemed to contradict it the following year in a Vogue interview aggregated by The Cut (tellingly titled: “Donatella Versace Doesn’t Want to Design Plus-Size Clothes”).

“We do offer larger sizes at Versace” she said. “I certainly wouldn’t want to do a plus-size line, as I have no problem with women of any size wearing my clothes. I guess some styles lend themselves to being scaled up, while some others just don’t work. Sometimes it can depend on the specific piece.”

While she’s not entirely wrong (as a former plus-sized model, I concur: every thing ain’t for every body), what’s more damning is W’s allegation that Versace “reportedly canceled a Versace for H&M shoot because the models looked like ‘real women’” in 2011, because God forbid.

As of this week, that stance has officially been reversed, as Versace followed in the now-full-figure-friendly footsteps of Fendi, who hosted their first plus models on the runway in February, hiring Kortleve and Paloma Elsesser; Etro joined the movement this season, alongside Versace.

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As the magazine also points out, as of late, Versace has been dressing the likes of Lizzo in custom styles, with Donatella boasting, “I’m so proud to dress such an unbelievably talented woman,” so perhaps this was a natural next step. But whether this trend of inclusion is simply that or the beginning of curvier, more colorful Milan Fashion Weeks remains to seen. In the meantime, you can watch the refreshingly melanated runway presentation below.

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up, co-host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door...May I borrow some sugar?

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DISCUSSION

Interesting use of crimped fabric, gives it a shell feel. The color palette is reminiscent of Aqua Man with the marigold, green ash and mint (intentional?). The Versace logo hip sling on the evening wear blazer and skirts like the one Jill Kortleve was wearing at 3:21 was an interesting touch.