12 Feminist Moments From New York Fashion Week

by Erika W. Smith


New York Fashion Week is over, and we’re taking a look at some of the moments that give us a little bit of hope about feminism’s growing influence on the fashion industry. From growing numbers of diverse models on the runway, to Refinery 29’s celebration of women and nonbinary people at 29 Rooms, here are 12 moments to pay attention to.

1. Refinery29’s 29 Rooms exhibit brought activism to fashion week

planned parenthoodBRIGHT FUTURE in collaboration with Planned Parenthood, courtesy Refinery29

Refinery29 filled a warehouse in Williamsburg with 29 exhibits of ready-to-Instagram artwork. Alongside exhibits dedicated to brands like Cadillac, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Juicy Couture were rooms celebrating Planned Parenthood (with 10,000 condoms available) and the Women’s March (with postcards to send to your representatives); art pieces by feminist artists Cleo Wade, Jee Young Lee, and Maisie Cousins; and rooms-with-a-message from some of our fave women and nonbinary celebs including Lizzo, Jill Soloway, Sasheer Zamata, and Madame Gandhi. Peep a few more pics below:

refinery29EROTICA IN BLOOM in collaboration with Maisie Cousins 

refinery29 copyGENDER NEUTRAL in collaboration with Jill Soloway’s Topple

here our voiceHEAR OUR VOICE in collaboration with the Women’s March

lizzoMOVE AND BE MOVED in collaboration with Lizzo

madame gandhiTHE FUTURE IS FEMALE in collaboration with Madame Gandhi and Jen Mussari


2. There were more plus-size models on the runways…

christian siriano

Christian Siriano, Eckhaus Latta, Prabal Gurung, Michael Kors, Anna Sui, Rebecca Minkhoff, Chromat, Tome, Tracy Reese, Miaou, Michael Costello, and the Blonds all sent plus-size models down the runway alongside straight-size models. More of this, please! 

3. And more plus-size brands showing at NYFW…


Plus-size brands Addition Elle and Torrid also held shows, the first time NYFW has had plus-size brands on the official calendar.

4. …but there’s still a lot of work to do.

ashley graham

As Ashley Graham pointed out, there were still plenty of designers who only chose to cast straight-size models (including Rihanna’s Fenty for Puma). Meanwhile, Racked pointed out Torrid’s fashion show could have done more to celebrate the plus-size community.

5. There was more racial diversity on the runway than there’s been in the past.

duckie thot copy

Along with plus-size models, models of color had a presence on the runways at many shows — particularly at shows by designers of color, including Rihanna’s Fenty for Puma, Tracy Reese, and Maki Oh. Model Duckie Thot was one breakout star.

6. …but there’s still a lot of work to do there, too.


Nicki Minaj pointed out that the fashion industry has a lot of work to do to truly embrace people of color. “Designers get really big and really rich off of our culture, and then you don’t see a motherfucker that look anything like us in the front row half the time,” she said. 

7. The runways got more inclusive in other ways, too..


The runways also featured trans models Leyna Bloom (The Blonds, Chromat), Andreja Pejic (Prabal Gurung), and Teddy Quinlivan (Marc Jacobs, Coach, Carolina Herrera, and others; she came out during NYFW); Winnie Harlow, who has vitiligo (at Marc Jacobs, Coach, and Matty Bovan); pregnant model Maia Ruth Lee (at Ekhaus Latta); and senior models Jacky O’Shaughnessy and Jo-Ani Johnson (at Tome, both in their 60s) and Maye Musk (also in her 60s, at Concept Korea). Too often the runways are dominated by cis white women in their teens, so it’s refreshing to see other types of models working — and looking amazing.

8. Those who aren’t welcomed by New York Fashion Week threw their own parties.


Curvy Con, a convention celebrating plus-size brands and bloggers, was held during the same time as New York Fashion Week but wasn’t officially a part of it. Similarly, size-inclusive brands including Dia & Co and SmartGlamour held shows that coincided with New York Fashion Week but weren’t on the official calendar. And Harlem’s Fashion Row celebrated black designers and fashionistas with a awards ceremony, runway show and party in Harlem. See a few more pics below:



SmartGlamour 2017F 0092SmartGlamourSmartGlamour 2017F 0092SmartGlamour

9. Gloria Steinem made an appearance.

gloria steinem

Gloria Steinem attended her first-ever fashion show and sat front row at Prabal Gurung — a front row that also included activist Deray McKesson and politician Huma Abedin. Gurung has brought activism to fashion throughout his career and, as always, sent a diverse group of models down the runway. 

10. Emerging designers were celebrated


The Business Of Fashion points out that with some established designers opting to show at Paris instead of New York, more up-and-coming designers were given a chance. — including 11-year-old Kheris Rogers with her “Flexin’ My Complexion” line, which “encourages people to love their skin.”

12. Creative, diverse fashionistas were celebrated


Solange, Teyana Taylor, and Dita Von Teese performed during shows, while Rihanna and Cardi B. made headlines for their stellar fashion. Leslie Jones stole NYFW with her exuberant reaction during Christian Siriano’s show. 

12. Artists and designers celebrated all things yonic — and championed reproductive rights.


From artist Cleo Wade’s “Womb” and Maisie Cousins’ “Erotic In Bloom” artworks at Refinery29’s 29Rooms, to designer Namilia’s vulva-covered designs, the V was everywhere at NYFW. Also there? Support for reproductive rights and Planned Parenthood

wombCleo Wade’s “Womb” At Refinery 29’s 29 Rooms

Top photo: Instagram/Christian Siriano

More from BUST

 “IS THAT MISS JAY”: Fangirling At NYFW Torrid Spring 2018

A Pregnant Model Rocked Her Baby Bump On The Runway At NYFW 

Nicki Minaj Sounds Off On Cultural Appropriation At NYFW Nicki Minaj Sounds Off On Cultural Appropriation At NYFW 

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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