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The Vogue Business Autumn/Winter 2024 menswear size inclusivity report

There were no mid or plus-size menswear models in Milan and very few in Paris this season, our latest research shows. As representation continues to decline, casting directors weigh in.

As the Autumn/Winter 2024 menswear season concluded last week, the Vogue Business team sat down once again and crunched the numbers to determine the level of size inclusivity across all menswear shows and presentations from Milan and Paris that made a feature on Vogue Runway. And this season, when looking at the columns for mid-size and plus-size looks, we were confronted with more zeros than ever.

Vogue Business assessed the 66 AW24 menswear shows using image catalogues published on Vogue Runway, and contacted each brand to verify the findings (brands were given 48 hours to respond). Out of 2,855 looks across Milan and Paris, 98.3 per cent were straight-size (under EU48). Mid-size (EU48-54) representation made up 1.5 per cent of looks, down from 7.7 per cent last season, while plus-size (EU56-plus or over XL) made up 0.2 per cent of looks, down from 0.4 per cent last season.

Plus-size representation has regressed: out of 66 shows across Milan and Paris, only two Paris shows — Louis Gabriel Nouchi and Doublet — featured at least one plus-size model, totalling five looks out of the 2,855. By comparison, for Spring/Summer 2024, six shows out of 72 featured at least one plus-size model. The season before, it was eight shows out of 69.

Mid-size representation hasn’t fared much better. Just six of the 66 AW24 shows (10.6 per cent) featured at least one mid-size look: Yohji Yamamoto, Louis Gabriel Nouchi, Doublet, KidSuper, Walter Van Beirendonck and Louis Vuitton. And, all of these were in Paris; there were no mid-size or plus-size models on the runway in Milan this season. (4S Designs was not included in the mid-size list because while the sample size used was EU50, all the models were straight-size.)

The numbers were impacted by the absence of just one or two designers that use larger sizes on their runways, such as Luca Magliano (who showed at trade show Pitti Uomo this season, instead of Milan). It points to the fragility of size representation within the menswear sector in Paris and Milan: both of the men’s fashion weeks currently rely on a small handful of independent designers to keep momentum. In womenswear, by contrast, some of the larger players, such as Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga and Mugler, have been experimenting with size inclusivity, so changes in who’s showing aren’t felt as keenly.

An ongoing challenge seems to be a lack of impetus on the part of brands to change. Mid-size model James Sennen Cooper was originally scouted on social media by UK-based agency IMM, who showed him to Magliano in 2022 for his AW23 show. The model has since featured on the cover of German indie magazine Zeit and starred in campaigns for Adidas and Calvin Klein, but still finds it hard to secure runway work. “A lot of brands are fickle with the casting,” Sennen Cooper says. “They can get some short-term publicity but they’re not ready to take [mid and plus-size] models seriously and invest in them as much.”

For the brands that do want to improve their representation, it’s not an easy process: they often have to rely on street casting, which takes much longer and, in some cases, can deter agencies from booking famous models to walk the same show.

Why Milan and Paris are falling behind

Last season, London-based size-inclusive womenswear designer Karoline Vitto had to fly curve models out to Milan, where she was presenting her first MFW show in partnership with Dolce & Gabbana, because she couldn’t find enough locally. Other designers showing in mainland Europe report similar challenges.

Magliano’s Pitti show in early January — which does not feature in our calculations — featured two mid-size and two plus-size looks. Casting director Julia Asaro had to look far and wide to secure plus and mid-size talent, starting three months before the show. Opening model Sennon Cooper, who wears a size EU52, is from Manchester, UK.

“Only half [of] our models were from Italy because we couldn’t find the talent, even from street casting,” Asaro says. “It’s hard to street cast [plus-size] people in Italy because they don’t see themselves represented in editorials or on the runway. They have a certain idea of what fashion looks like.” She puts this down, in part, to the types of brands that show during fashion weeks. “We have very commercial brands [in Italy]. It’s very static.”

London and New York, by comparison, have seen more movement in size-inclusive talent scouting — despite no longer hosting standalone men’s fashion weeks. Casting director Alexandre Junior Cyprien, who casted Louis Gabriel Nouchi’s show in Paris this season, works with modelling agencies in London. “I think maybe people are more open-minded in London,” he says.

Over in the US, in a bid to increase the number of plus-size male models ready for show bookings, model Cameron Boyland is organising a New York Fashion Week Men’s event, which includes a “Big and Tall” flash mob outside NYFW shows from 9 to 10 February (Boyland hosted the first flash mob in September 2022) as well as an inaugural “The State of the Big and Tall Comunity” panel discussion and press conference, also on 10 February. Consulting and creative management agency The Bigger Picture, which is an advocate for size inclusivity in menswear, will close the two-day event with its Indie Fashion Show, spotlighting inclusive designs and plus-size menswear from emerging designers like Rico Lamar, Ronald Collins and Sakinah Zahran.

“There’s a lot of conversation around size inclusivity, but what’s the real call to action?” says Boyland, who is in the midst of a model search for plus-size men, in preparation for the show. “We want to help people get their career started as a model. Breaking into the industry can feel awkward [as a plus-size male model] because you feel like you’re knocking on doors or competing [for very few positions], but there’s no community support. I’ve noticed plus-size women [representation] is further ahead than where men are because they have collaborations and networks and the community comes together.”

The highs and lows of street casting

Nouchi is among the few designers who consistently shows looks on a variety of body types. Cyprien, who has been working with Nouchi for four years, uses a combination of street-casted models (scouted both in-person and via Instagram — sometimes even customers are scouted), agency models and the occasional supermodel; Coco Rocha closed the show this season, during the brand’s womenswear debut.

Street casting, in particular, is essential for size inclusivity, says Cyprien. “I contact agencies in Paris or in Europe but it’s difficult to find plus-size male models because they’re not in the agencies. Some of the agencies try to have more plus-size male models, but there aren’t many jobs for them.”

To make sure inclusivity was considered, the brand started casting two months before the show. This is because street casting takes longer — both in the scouting process itself and in the extra care given when explaining to street-casted models how the process works, so that they feel comfortable.

The worry is that the longer lead time that street casting takes could deter other brands from casting inclusively, pointing to the need for more representation in agencies. “[Street casting] is a totally different process, and sometimes brands don’t have the money [or time] to do that. It’s really important to Louis [and I] but it’s a lot of work,” says Cyprien.

Agencies can be very strict on who their talents are cast next to in shows, and will often stipulate that their models can’t walk in a show featuring street-cast models, or they won’t allow prominent models or supermodels to work a show that features new or street-cast models, says casting director Emma Matell, who helped on a range of shows across the season including Sunflower in Paris and Achilles Ion Gabriel at Pitti (neither were featured in the data set as the former isn’t on Vogue Runway and the latter was at Pitti). Vogue Business contacted top agencies including IMG, Ford, Next, Wilhelmina and Select, but none responded by the time of publication.

“When it comes to inclusivity, that’s a major problem, because agencies have limited curve models on their books and the majority of curve models are street cast,” says Mattell. This means that designers who feature curve models typically can’t secure major talents for their shows; possibly detering leading brands from pushing on size inclusivity, at the risk of losing supermodel buzz. “You see the shows that have like all the big [name] models, but they aren’t inclusive. They may have famous plus-size models like Paloma [Elsesser] or Alva [Claire], but other than that they’ll stay pretty one note.”

In doing so, as well as risking alienating mid and plus-size customers, menswear brands are losing out on potential PR buzz from mid-size and plus-size male celebrities, particularly in the sports space. From Travis Kelce to Braxton Berrios, “NFL men” are having a huge fashion moment, for example, but these hugely influential talents (and high-net-worth customers) aren’t being served.

“I have a few friends who are in the NFL and you’d think if brands are going to target anyone with the discretionary income to buy they’d look to athletes — it’s a big man’s sport — but they’re struggling for options to dress up before the game,” says model Boyland. “It’s a major opportunity. I don’t understand why the ball is being consistently dropped.”

With data collection by Ezreen Benissan and Madeleine Schulz, and data analysis by Emily Forkan.

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