By Sarah Chiwaya
While attending the Chromat show at MADE Fashion Week, I realized one of the models on the runway looked very familiar. Then it hit me – it was Kailee O’Sullivan, a face I see modeling Gwynnie Bee garments all the time. Since she was now modeling for two of my favorite companies, I wanted to take the opportunity to chat with her about the experience of walking in a NYFW show, something usually reserved for straight size models.
I spoke with Kailee about how she ended up on the runway, starting with the casting call. She was sent there by her agent, Becca Thorpe of Muse Models, and had a moment of doubt when she arrived: “There was a line of models out the door, all of them straight sized.” She decided to stick it out anyways, and when she got to the front, found it to be a fun process, with an emphasis on a good runway walk. (I can attest to Kailee’s prowess in that regard, because she killed it on the catwalk). Apparently Chromat agreed, and Kailee landed a spot.
When she arrived to The Standard Hotel on the day of the show, the backstage atmosphere was vibrant. Kailee described it as “really energetic and very exciting – I was on a high for the whole experience; I don’t get to do runway too often.” The positive energy seemed to permeate the atmosphere: “Lots of smiles,” from everyone to the models to the stylists.
In addition to upbeat music playing while the models were prepped, the hair and makeup itself helped set the tone for the show: “They smoothed out my hair and put it in the tightest ponytail ever, which made me a little nervous at first, but then I got into the character of the woman I was portraying – strong, tight.” The makeup was “very natural, except for the orange dots on my eyes.” I loved this unique statement makeup – perfect for the drama of the runway. Right before the show started, Kailee’s agent gave her models (Kailee, Denise Bidot, and Katy Syme) a rallying cry: “Go out there and be the fierce women you are!” All three women clearly took it to heart, because they were fantastic in the show. After the final walk, there was an atmosphere of excitement: “We were giving each other high fives.” Thinking back on it, Kailee realized that part of that joy was the natural inclusion of plus models in the show: They were involved “without making a big deal about it, which is the way it should be.” This is so in line with what Chromat designer Becca McCharen said in my interview with her; and with my own beliefs.
The diverse show was very emblematic of the fashion for all philosophy, which for Kailee is less about trends, and more about expressing how she feels on any given day: “Sometimes I want to be more edgy, and I go for something black, tight, maybe leather. Other days I want to wear something softer – for fall, I am loving crushed velvet and rich patterns.” Whatever style, it is all about “getting what is inside of me out” – using clothing as a way to communicate. “We have all these different roles inside of us that we have to express.”
I cannot agree more: For me, the beauty of fashion is being able to choose things that reflect the person I want to be on any given day. I am so excited that plus fashion is growing and giving us more options to fully express who we are, whether that is edgy, vintage inspired, minimalist, downtown, uptown, or any of the hundreds of styles one can have. Having access to a wide variety of styles allows us to fully engage in fashion in a way that plus size women haven’t previously been able to. And with “more and more plus girls going to castings,” as Kailee noticed, hopefully runways will start to reflect that there are fashionable women of all sizes.
For more on Chromat’s MADE Fashion Week runway show, check out Sarah’s interview with the brains behind the brand Becca McCharen over on her blog, Curvily.
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