Ashley Graham Walked for Dolce & Gabbana Despite Its Fat-Shaming Past

Ashley Graham
Photo: Getty Images

The weekend of April 7-8 was Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Moda Fashion show. Star-studded and over-the-top, the one thing that felt off was seeing body-positive models like Ashley Graham and Alessandra Garcia Lorido walking the runway after D&G’s long history of fat-shaming. A Revelist article expressed the same concerns I felt, and it made me wonder: Does the fashion industry truly care about body-positivity and diversity—or just invoking it to sell their clothes?

It’s hard not to be impressed by the lavish show, which featured elaborate dresses, headpieces, a dinner on the stage of the Met, and a fireworks show. Friday was dedicated to jewelry; Saturday was devoted to the Sartoria menswear show; and on Sunday, it was time for the finale. Instead of taking center stage, the brand showed over 100 looks in New York City’s Metropolitan Opera lobby—a place that holds special memories for founders Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana.

Since I happen to live nearby, I felt like I was being teased the whole time, knowing I was so close (but so far!) from stars like Naomi Campbell, Karlie Kloss. So I settled for ogling the countless Instagram pictures and videos. But it was disconcerting to see proudly curvy (and vocally body-positive) women like Graham and Garcia Lorido collaborating with such a controversial brand that has flouted all of our gender’s hard-earned progress.

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According to The Fashion Spot report, the latest NYFW featured 37.3 percent models of color, which is up only a negligible .4 percent from 2017. If you’re thinking, hey, at least it’s up at all, allow us to rain on your parade: Plus-size model appearances dropped from 34 appearances on nine runways in 2017 to 26 appearances on eight runways in 2018.

D&G’s Fall 2018 Ready-to-Wear collection didn’t feature a single plus-size model. But this time around, for a couture collection based in New York City instead of Italy, D&G thought it appropriate to enlist models with bodies they once poked fun at.

The biggest scandal involved its Fall/Winter 2017 collection, which featured pair of shoes with the words “thin and gorgeous” inscribed on the outside. Unsurprisingly, people slammed the designers, but Gabbana showed his true colors when he stood by the words. He replied to comments on Instagram with: “darling you prefer to be fat and full of cholesterol ??? I think u have a problem” and “u think is better to be fat full of hamburger??? Stupid.”

MORE: Ashley Graham Is Worried That Her Size Will Be Another ‘Fashion Trend’

Only a few months prior, Gabbana again found himself in hot water after body-shaming Lady Gaga during her Super Bowl LI halftime show. He quickly apologized and posted a photo of Gaga on his Instagram with the caption, “I know it’s strange, but finally something real not retouched! The truth, reality. Yesterday I criticized it too, but I though [sic] about it and I was wrong!!!” Although he apologized for that gaffe, the shoes and the video he made after (see below) show little remorse.

Aside from failing to include and embrace real women’s bosdies, the brand has never apologized for creating racist “mammy” earrings in 2012. Likewise, Muslim women felt that D&G’s 2016 hijab line was only a way to make money (since Muslim people spend about $226 billion on luxury goods in a year).

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It might look like D&G is making strides based off its latest show, but it’s hard to believe. The fashion industry has a long history excluding different races and body types, which is why the need for change feels more urgent than ever now. And though some may say, “Motive doesn’t matter as long as brands show different bodies and races,” we beg to differ. By overtly marketing non-white races and plus-size models as outside the norm, designers continue to advance the dangerous idea that white and skinny is the norm.

At this point, we just hope brands stick to practicing what they preach (or changing what they preach), and that body-positive models like Graham and Lorido stick to their guns about making body-positivity a constant reality, rather than a trend. In our book, that means being selective about which designers they walk for—and helping their fans understand why they would choose to collaborate with those who have a long history of bigotry and exclusion.