London (AFP): Felicity Hayward will not miss a single show at London Fashion Week, which starts on Friday, watching each model and counting the number of plus-size women on the catwalks.
For this influencer, so proud of her XXL shape, “beauty doesn’t have a size”.
Hayward’s fashion debut came in 2012 when, to her surprise, she was spotted in London by a well-known photographer.
She has since fronted multiple advertising campaigns and become known for her work in broadening the representation of women in fashion. The hashtags #selflovebringsbeauty and more recently #includingthecurves proved a hit on social media.
Hayward has also found time to release her book “Does My Butt Look Big in This?: A Body Positive Manifesto”, which features a photo of her in a tight leopard-skin dress on the cover.
Hayward, who grew up in a village in the east of England, started her work life far from the world of fashion, teaching autistic children.
She also worked in a bar in the evening to earn more money and it was there that photographer Miles Aldridge, who was looking for a blonde, curvy woman, approached her.
Having studied his work at university, she seized the opportunity, agreeing to the 20-hour shoot.
“When it was published it went viral,” explained Hayward.
“The photographer had never used plus-size models or a curvy woman in his work, he always used very, very thin women.”
Things quickly snowballed, with a modelling agency getting in touch.
“I thought it was a prank,” she said. “I was put into a place where girls and women like me didn’t really have a space.”
Fashion magazine British Vogue published an article about her in July 2013, entitled “Bringing Back the Bombshell”.
She has since done advertising campaigns for the cosmetic brand Mac, The Body Shop and made the covers of Glamour and ID, among others.
‘Using me’ for exposure
Now aged 35, Hayward calls herself an influencer, and it was in this capacity that she was invited to numerous fashion shows. She nevertheless chose to boycott London Fashion Week in 2019.
“They were using me to be on the front row… to give the exposure for their brands,” she said.
But many of the brands did not produce clothes in her size, so she reasoned: “If you don’t do my size with should I support you?”
From now on, she only physically goes to the fashion shows of brands offering clothes in her size, which is a US size 16.
Instead she follows hundreds of fashion shows in New York, Milan and Paris on the internet, counting the number of curvy models.
New York usually fares best, but she only spotted 31 plus-size models in February’s shows, compared with 49 in September 2022, out of a total of around 3,000, according to her estimates.
In London, 71 plus-size models hit the catwalk in February, compared with 45 the previous season, while in Paris she counted 40 curvy models.
She has vowed to carry on her crusade to make fashion “more inclusive”.
“Fashion is trend-based, bodies are not,” she said.
But the situation is “much better that 10 years ago”, she added, and the body positivity trend has well and truly taken hold.
But there is a flip side, she warned — brands will parade one or two plus-size models without offering clothes larger than US size 9.
Hayward also took aim at reality TV stars the Kardashians, and the cultural influence they have.
“Suddenly arses are humongous, waist are tiny, lips are huge, and they’re saying that this is all natural,” she said, accusing them of creating “a false narrative” about women’s bodies.
“I despise what they have done to the body image,” she added.