From a baby-faced Sophie Dahl at London Fashion Week to that time Beth Ditto brought the house down at Gaultier

Last week, Simon Porte Jacquemus brought a little sunshine into our lives – but then, what’s new? – when he dropped images from his latest campaign. Shot in isolation via FaceTime, the images saw Bella Hadid and Euphoria’s Barbie Ferreira take centre stage for SS20, wearing a series of the joyful designer’s signature straw hats, sexy crop-tops, and strategically placed beach bags. They were, as Simon himself might say, trop jolie.  

What’s perhaps most exciting about the campaign, though, is Ferreira’s inclusion. Until recently, Jacquemus’ runways and campaigns were devoid of anyone above a sample size: given ‘plus-size’ model and former Dazed 100er Jill Kortleve’s appearance at his AW20 show, and Ferreira’s starring role in his SS20 photo series, could the tide finally be turning at Simon’s eponymous label? 

Though the numbers of plus-size models on the runway for the AW20 season were lower than they have been for some time (le sigh) with just 46 models cast in New York, London, Milan, and Paris, a number of fashion’s biggest houses, including Fendi and Chanel, enlisted larger models to join their line-ups, proving that, albeit incredibly slowly, the mainstream tide may finally be changing. 

Here, to give them a little inspiration for their future shows, we’ve rounded up a few of the times plus-size models have stormed runways around the world. Come on fashion, we know you can do better!


A baby-faced Sophie Dahl made her first runway appearance for Bella Freud in 1997, at a time when the heroin chic aesthetic propelled forwards by the likes of Jaime King and Kate Moss was at its peak. Unsurprisingly, the tabloid press blew its top that someone above a size 12 should be allowed out onto the runway, as Dahl’s cherubic face was plastered over front pages everywhere. The model, meanwhile, was completely unruffled by the reaction, going on to model for the likes of Lainey Keogh and JPG, before eventually becoming the face and alabaster body of Tom Ford’s controversial ad for Saint Laurent fragrance Opium


First landing on the Gaultier runway in the early 90s, JPG muse Stella Ellis soon went on to model for Thierry Mugler as part of his iconic, era-defining AW95 couture shows (more on that here). As one of the most popular plus-size models of the decade, Ellis also went on to appear in shoots lensed by the likes of Steven Meisel in Vogue, Elle, and Glamour, and was famously featured in Madonna’s controversial, scandal-inducing book, SEX.


Though Mark Fast has dropped off the fashion radar in recent years, in 2009, the young Canadian designer’s star was rising – not least because he opted to send UK size 12 and 14 models down the runway as part of his SS10 show. With the women wearing an array of knitted, body-con dresses, the move was a reaction to criticism he had faced for making the kind of garments only the super tall and super toned would be likely to be seen in. At the time, the show felt monumental and seemed to signify a shift towards a more inclusive fashion industry: ten years on and it’s clear we’ve barely moved forward. 


Jean Paul Gaultier has long been known for championing the kind of beauty not necessarily seen on the pages of glossy fashion mags, so it makes sense the subversive French designer would send plus-size girls down the runway. Having previously added the likes of Crystal Renn to his model line-up, for SS11, Gaultier went one step further and invited musician Beth Ditto to not just walk wearing one of his flamboyant corseted creations, but also perform “River Deep, Mountain High”. “Big girls are beautiful and Beth is super beautiful! Long live beauty with shapes, boobs, and bottoms,” he said at the time. Later, for SS16, Ditto also walked in Marc Jacobs’ NYFW show, likening the chaos backstage to being in The Muppets Take Manhattan. As far as fashion week goes, that sounds about right tbh.


Fresh from her appearance in the second season of Pose, queer multidisciplinary artist Fatima Jamal landed in Florence to take the runway at Stefano Pilati’s AW20 Random Identities show. Taking place in the Italian city’s longest standing train station, the venue was turned into a pulsating underground club bathed in red light, with Jamal taking her turn in a black sequined sheath gown, alongside the likes of Lux Gillespie and Pilati himself.


Way back in 2011, as part of its Cruise show in St. Tropez, Chanel sent Crystal Renn down the runway, wearing a simple black and pale pink dress that fluttered around her legs. As a go-to for Gaultier and more, the model, who had previously battled an eating disorder in the early days of her career, was no stranger to high profile fashion shows. Her appearance at Chanel was pretty momentous, though – marking the first time a plus-size model had ever walked for the revered Parisian maison (given we all know Karl Lagerfeld’s thoughts on larger bodies, this should come as no big surprise). After Renn’s moment in the spotlight, it would be another decade until a plus-size model walked for Chanel, with 2019 Dazed 100er Jill Kortleve on the line-up at Virginie Viard’s AW20 show. 


Having found her feet on the runway walking for the likes of Eckhaus Latta, Paloma Elsesser recently joined the Fendi family at its AW20 Milan Fashion Week presentation. Stealing the show in a buttercup yellow, snatched at the waist skirt suit, we’re hoping that, whatever fashion looks like post-pandemic, plenty of other brands will wake up and join us in 2020 – because lord knows they’re long overdue.