New York Fashion Week: a small victory for diversity

betsey Johnson CompLink
betsey Johnson Comp Photograph: Randy Brooke/Wireimage

Fashion loves a bit of controversy, particularly if it involves the female form. French Vogue recently shocked readers by using models as young as 10. But the fashion worlds is less keen, it would seem, on diversity, and black models seem as scarce as ever on the runway at this New York Fashion Week.

But every year there is one runway show that breaks the mould when it comes to celebrating women of all colours, shapes and sizes. This year was no different for Betsey Johnson, who went so far as to reference the female form in her runway show title- Ass and Titties. Johnson, known as something of rule breaker in the world of fashion, is a breath of fresh air. Each season black, Asian and white models with fuller figures and even the odd wrinkle parade down her catwalk.

Betsey Johnson Show, Spring 2012 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, New York, America - 12 Sep 2011 Betsey Johnson does the splits in celebration of her NYFW 2011Link Collection Photo by Rex Features

What's refreshing about Johnson (left) is that while most designers might use curvy models for one show, as a flash in the pan trend, for Johnson it's a consistent message. During February fashion week in New York, she cast real women for her runway show.

So prevalent was the theme of the female body, that this year's Betsey Johnson collection featured a black zipped body con dress, highlighting peek-a-boo ruffled gold underwear- no room for subtlety here. The theme even extended to the runway music Nicki Minaj who sat front row, Beyonce and Fergie - all curvy women not afraid to flaunt their physique.

While we can't use this as a measuring stick for the industry as a whole (in fact, when asked this week if she thought that the fashion world was becoming more open to curvy models, Italian Vogue editor Franca Sozzani said: "Honestly, no. It only begins to happen when you start to fight against something.") at least Johnson is helping to keep the issue at the forefront of New York fashion week, every season.

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