The fashion industry isn’t quite working for Tim Gunn.
The “Project Runway” mentor, fashion consultant and television personality is beloved, among other things, for his unabashed willingness to speak his mind. He penned a revealing piece for The Washington Post on Thursday on the bleak state of affairs when it comes to women over a certain size in the fashion industry.
“There are 100 million plus-size women in America, and, for the past three years, they have increased their spending on clothes faster than their straight-size counterparts. There is money to be made here ($20.4 billion, up 17 percent from 2013). But many designers — dripping with disdain, lacking imagination or simply too cowardly to take a risk — still refuse to make clothes for them,” he wrote.
This ultimately creates a less than desirable shopping experience for those 100 million women. “It’s a horribly insulting and demoralizing experience,” he wrote. Gunn has long advocated for change in this regard, once telling The Huffington Post he would throw himself “right out the window” if he were a size 18 woman and saw the department store offerings available in said size.
Gunn even calls to task his own show, “Project Runway,” for something that was widely praised among many outlets (including ours).
Ashley Nell Tipton is a plus-size fashion designer who was “Runway’s” Season 14 winner. Her victory was seen by many as a step forward for the franchise. To Gunn though, it completely missed the point. Calling her designs “hideous,” he lamented that “her victory reeked of tokenism,” even revealing that one of the judges said she was “voting for the symbol” of having a plus-size woman take the title.
To Gunn’s point, picking a plus-size designer as winner to prove one’s open-mindedness ― rather than basing the decision on the quality of the designs themselves ― isn’t what we’re aiming for in a move toward inclusivity. It should be about people ― regardless of size ― making quality, fashionable clothing for women of all shapes.
“I wouldn’t dream of letting any woman, whether she’s a size 6 or a 16, wear them. Simply making a nod toward inclusiveness is not enough,” he said.
The cutting piece debuted fittingly on the first day of New York Fashion Week, arguably the biggest offender of all when it comes to lack of inclusivity. Gunn points out that the high fashion designers who show at Fashion Week “say the plus-size woman is complicated, different and difficult,” recalling a time in 2009 when Karl Lagerfeld flat out said “no one wants to see curvy women” on the runway.
On the other hand, he calls out the usual suspects in praise: Eloquii for actually getting trendy clothing above a size 12 right, Christian Siriano for stepping in to dress Leslie Jones when she revealed that no designer would dress her for the Ghostbusters premiere, and Lane Bryant as his go-to spot for women above a 14 (although he admits “the items aren’t fashion with a capital F”).
One basic idea is woven into the heart of Gunn’s message: That women ― all women ― deserve to look and feel good in clothing that fits and flatters them. “I profoundly believe that women of every size can look good. But they must be given choices,” he said.