With models like Crystal "Vogue Paris" Renn becoming true crossover stars, and agents like Gary Dakin of Ford+ reporting so much demand that he turns work down, it seems like the fashion industry is finally starting to recognize the beauty of bodies that aren't runway-sample-sized. Here are five plus-size models we think are ripe for mainstream success. We'd love to see any one of them on the runway this fashion week.
The 5'11" Ukraininan Alyona Osmanova came on to the international modeling scene in 2006, at the age of 18. Her agency, Supreme, listed her measurements as 33"-23"-33" — actually an inch smaller than the straight-size runway standard. Osmanova's first season was pretty much a blockbuster: she walked for designers including Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan, and Thakoon, and scored the coveted Prada exclusive. (Every season, Miuccia Prada and her casting director, Russell Marsh, choose one girl out of the hundreds of hopeful new faces, and give that girl and her agency a pile of cash to walk in the Prada show and the Prada show only during Milan fashion week. Sometimes Prada also books the model exclusively for her Miu Miu show in Paris; Osmanova did both.) She went on to walk for Proenza Schouler, and Chanel and Givenchy haute couture, among many others. Over the next four years, Osmanova racked up editorial credits in the top magazines, including Vogue Italia, Teen Vogue, V, and Pop.
But during winter last year, with New York fashion week approaching, she found could no longer keep her weight down. "I did part of Fashion Week, and I couldn't [finish] because I couldn't fit in any of the dresses," Osmanova tells New York's Amy Odell. "I pretty much didn't know what to do for three months or four months, and I was trying to work out and diet but I was stressing out." She heard about plus-size modeling, and signed with Ford.
Since her switch, Osmanova has walked in the Elena Miro show in Milan, and modeled for Teen Vogue. (She told the magazine, "The body is such a unique gift, and we won't have it forever, so there's no time to hate anything about it.") Those are great bookings, but it's undeniable that Osmanova's career has slowed down significantly since her crossover to plus — which is a great shame on the industry. Osmanova is an experienced model who's worked with some of fashion's greatest talents. Why aren't more clients keen to capitalize on that? Where are all the designers and the magazines who were scrambling to book her two years ago? Where's Russell Marsh? With legs for miles and those cheekbones, if ever there were a girl destined for high fashion, Osmanova is it.
The striking, 6' tall bi-racial Swede Sabina Karlsson is, like Renn and Osmanova, yet another girl who struggled as a straight-size model with the industry's size restrictions, and emerged later and healthier as a plus-size model. Karlsson was first launched into the industry in 2005 at the age of 17 via the Ford Supermodel of the World competition, which the agency uses to scout for new faces. She also competed on Sweden's Next Top Model (Karlsson came second). During her first New York fashion week, Karlsson booked 12 shows, and she would go on to walk for designers including Jean-Paul Gaultier, Betsey Johnson, and Tracey Reese.
At the time, her agency gave her hip measurement at 36", which is definitely on the larger side for a runway model, and there was some industry sniping about how Karlsson was "bottom-heavy." In 2007, she told a magazine, "It's sad that the model world requires models to be so skinny, just so they can fit the designer clothes. And, in a way, it's the designers who are pushing this problem forward — if they keep on making clothes in size zero, models will always need to be a size zero." (She claimed in the same interview to maintain her weight with healthy eating and exercise habits.) On the editorial side, Karlsson worked for American Elle (and we loved her in Glamour), and she did ads for Madewell and American Eagle.