Last year alone, the modeling industry and international catwalk circuit saw thousands of new faces. And while it’s no secret that the fashion world can improve in terms of diversity, 2015 opened many new doors, possibilities and firsts for models interested in promoting originality. From transgender models scoring major campaigns to plus sized women making their runway debut, the modeling world has made major progress in terms of inclusiveness. Here, this year’s models who broke the mold.
It was hard to forget Ruth Bell, with her strikingly feminine buttery blond buzz cut and wide eyes. The model walked major European shows both seasons this year, including Gucci, Etro and Versace. Her biggest coup, however, may have been a starring role in the Saint Laurent cruise campaign. She brings equal parts poise, equal parts rock & roll. Her hair (or lack thereof) makes a beautiful statement about conventional beauty standards and gender.
The gorgeous plus size model made waves in the world of high fashion this year. She starred in Sophie Theallet’s fall 2015 campaign and walked in the designer’s NYFW spring 2016 show—a major step in promoting diversity on the runways. Candice Huffine is a size 12 and has appeared in Vogue Italia, Harper’s BAZAAR, W and CR Fashion Book. Her runway debut only proves that the world of fashion is becoming more open to a range of different body types.
As the first transgender model to ever sign with IMG (the agency who represents Gigi Hadid, Joan Smalls and Jessica Stam among others) Philadelphia-born Hari Nef walked the runways of indie-cool labels like Hood by Air, Eckhaus Latta and Adam Selman in New York. With her short-cut bangs and pale skin, she remains an unconventional beauty and continues to break boundaries through her modeling, writing and acting.
During her debut at the Prada fall 2015 show, Lineisy Montero enchanted the fashion world with her naturally gorgeous mini afro. Montero was the first black model to walk in Prada’s show since 2008. As one of the most in demand models of the spring 2016 season, she walked a total of 68 shows. We suspect Montero will be around for the long run, no matter how she styles her hair. She recently told i-D, “I want to exist and be recognized for my work and who I am, not only because of my hair or my skin color.”
Sometimes all it takes is a dramatic haircut to make waves in the fashion world. Peyton Knight has been modeling since she was 11 years old, but just emerged as an exclusive Alexander Wang model during September after having her hair cut into a modern bowl cut by Guido Palau. She later walked for Marc Jacobs, Jonathan Anderson, Gucci and Prada, making a statement with her surprisingly versatile and stylish new ‘do.
Transgender model Andreja Pejic began walking the high fashion runway in Paris in 2011 for Jean Paul Gaultier and Marc Jacobs. However this year, the model had many “firsts,” opening up the traditional ideal of beauty in fashion. Pejic fully transitioned to a woman in February while walking catwalks and landing a major campaign with Make Up For Ever in the spring.
The America’s Next Top Model alum has been outspoken about her skin condition vitiligo, which she’s had since the age of four. Her message has always been a positive and inclusive one about the beauty of eccentricity. This year alone, Harlow starred in a Diesel campaign and was featured in Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Vogue Italia, Ebony and Complex.
She made history this year as the first black model to ever walk in Victoria’s Secret fashion show with natural hair. The past two shows, Borges walked the runway with hair extensions, but she made the daring decision to forgo them for fashion week this year as well. Borges sported a mini afro at Givenchy’s fall 2015 show, at Ralph Lauren and at Zimmermann. She inspires a positive message about being yourself.