In July, Irish designer Sinead O’Dwyer made her London Fashion Week debut to both critical and cultural acclaim. In an industry that likes to pat itself on the back for mere attempts at diversity—racial, body, or otherwise—O’Dwyer is one of the few up-and-coming designers whose entire ethos, not just a collection or two, revolves around making fashion appealing for everyone.
This week, when O’Dwyer presented her sophomoric effort at London Fashion Week with her fall 2023 ready-to-wear collection, she made headlines for her inclusivity once again. On top of custom-fitting her designs to each model across a large sizing spectrum, she also intentionally designed looks to emphasize parts of our bodies that often get ignored or minimized in high fashion spaces: large breasts and midsections, for starters. And this time, she expanded the spectrum of diversity even further, including a model in a wheelchair and a pregnant model.
According to Hypebae, the collection was inspired by “dúil” or “desire,” a concept that O’Dwyer then applied to bodies that have rarely enjoyed associations with longing or lust on the most recognizable runways in the world. The models sported corsets fitted for larger busts, satin pajamas, pleated skirts, and playful takes on bondage and fishnets, and the pregnant model’s bodysuit appeared to be intentionally designed to showcase her pregnant body, rather than attempting to work around or hide it.
O’Dwyer has previously detailed how her inclusivity mindset goes far beyond designing, to production and casting. At her debut show, for example, her clothes were modeled on a cast of women from size 8 to 26, including wheelchair users Emily Barker and Naadirah Qazi. While custom-fitting those models is a somewhat costly and time-consuming endeavor, O’Dwyer has said she finds purpose in making garments to fit real people, as opposed to making all of the looks one size and hiring models to fit the garment.
“From a design perspective, obviously it’s more difficult to work from numerous block patterns at once as I do, or to use a range of fit models instead of one,” she recently wrote in an essay for British Vogue. “But ultimately, I believe brands and designers should be resolving the issue by making fewer styles, or showing in fewer seasons – however they want to do it. They should reduce the amount of different things they’re making, and focus instead on the amount of sizes per style or per season.”
What O’Dwyer seems to have captured in the very fabric of her brand is a relatively simple revelation that fashion on the whole seems to have forgotten: Fashion is meant to adorn the body and not the other way around. And as persistent stereotypes around differently-abled and bigger bodies are finally starting to give way to large-scale cultural acceptance (because all bodies are inherently beautiful and fashionable, for that matter), O’Dwyer is already leading the pack.