On a gorgeous, sunny day in New York City Monday, a group of fashionable men and women gathered on a roof deck at the United Nations to ogle Christian Siriano's latest collection.
But the show was different than those Siriano has staged in the past. This time, the models sauntering down the runway in bold, bright colors and sexy silhouettes included Ashley Graham, Candice Huffine, and Precious Lee, to name a few. It was a who's who of the hottest plus-size models in the game right now.
Siriano showed off his limited edition collection for Lane Bryant on this bevy of beautiful models, who are slowly but surely becoming household names. Graham famously covered the 2016 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, while Lee made history with a sexy inside-cover fold-out ad for Lane Bryant in the same issue. They were joined on the runway by bloggers and actress Danielle Brooks of "Orange Is The New Black," who serves as the face of the collection's ad campaign.
Backstage, the mood was buzzy and exciting, as it is before any major fashion show. Looking around the room at the impressive roster of women, it seemed especially blasphemous that many designers claim there simply aren't enough plus-size models to hire. Then, right on cue, Lee raised an interesting point to The Huffington Post.
"Designers say the sample size is the reason you don't see larger women in clothing campaigns," she said. "Well, what's the point of that for beauty? For cosmetics, for accessories, for sunglasses, shoes?"
And it's a valid point. Industry watchers were thrilled when it appeared plus-size model Clementine Desseaux had been hired as the face of Christian Louboutin's beauty campaign in Dec. 2015, but the apparent relationship never amounted to more than an Instagram video and tweet.
Far and wide within the beauty industry, there's a disconnect -- perhaps an even greater disconnect than in fashion. Lee says designers need to own up to it.
"If you're not going to use a plus-size woman, if you're not going to diversify, then just tell the truth and say you don't want to to use them. At this point, I feel like the excuses have run out," she said, adding, "Don't say it's the sample size, don't say there aren't that many girls, don't say there isn't a plus-size supermodel, that's all bull."
Lee, who called the runway show "a big step for Lane Bryant, to go out on a limb and do something that no other plus-size companies are doing," has been modeling for years. She told HuffPost that even people on jobs she is cast for sometimes need an education on working with plus models.
"One of the most insulting things for plus-size models that I've discussed with some colleagues is that people are so surprised when a girl who isn't a size 2/4 knows how to move and doesn't need to be told exactly what to do. OK, I get it, it's flattering, but it's also like, there are girls who have been doing this for over fifteen years. Why would you be shocked that I know how to find good light and take a good selfie? Whoop-de-do, that's not the most amazing thing."
Of course, we can't talk about finding good light and knowing exactly what to do without mentioning Ashley Graham. The supermodel, who has had one hell of a 2016 so far, said Siriano's collaboration with Lane Bryant is important in the movement toward inclusivity.
"It was so important that Lane Bryant collaborated with someone so high-end, to prove that it doesn't matter what size or shape you are, you can still make clothes our size that are sexy and flattering -- everything any woman would want," she said.
But for all the progress made in the past few years, Graham says the only real way to make change happen is to keep it going: "There is power in numbers."
There's no denying that Graham herself has been responsible for a big part of the shift.
"Being on the cover of Sports Illustrated was a huge eye-opener, not only for myself, not just for the plus industry, but the industry as a whole. It was like, 'Hey guys, we're not kidding, we're not going to conform to what the beauty standards have been for so long. We are a part of the new beauty standards,'" she said.
If these are the new beauty standards, sign us up.
CLARIFICATION: Language has been amended to reflect that Clementine Desseaux was not hired as the face of a Christian Louboutin beauty campaign, according to the company, though she did appear in promotional clips posted to the brand's social media channels.