6 Fashion Trailblazers Making the Industry More Inclusive

Fashion’s relationship with bodies who don’t fit a certain narrow framework has always been fraught. The path to size inclusivity in an industry as image-dependant as this has been riddled with stereotypes, labels, and tokenizations. That’s not to mention the myriad others who’ve historically been marginalized, includng the trans community, those with disabilities, and largely anyone not thin, tall, cisdengered, and white. Yeah, I said it.

The industry has a long way to go still. The call to action has become somewhat of a battle cry, and we’re hearing the term inclusivity thrown around a lot. But what does it mean to be truly inclusive? 

To attempt to answer that, we’re celebrating six trailblazers in fashion who are making serious strides towards a more holistic industry, one garment or post at a time. From the brands who are making seriously cool clothing for plus sizes to the content creator aiming to normalize disabled fashion people in your feed, these brands and individuals are making their mark.

Ahead, read our discussion on their experience in the industry, what true inclusivity looks like, and what they hope to see next in fashion.

fashion trailblazers


11 Honoré; @remibader; @charlihoward; @aprillockhart


Madeline Stuart

Madeline Stuart is changing perceptions of what a model should be one shoot at a time. Born with Down Syndrome, the 25-year-old Australian has risen to international acclaim since her modeling career began in 2015 and has since walked the runway during fashion weeks the world over, including New York, Paris, London, and many more.

How long have you been modeling for and how did you get into it?

I went with my mum to a fashion parade and told her I wanted to model. Through hard work and dedication, I lost 20kg. I did it for health reasons too. I put the photos on my public figure Facebook page and it went viral. It was seen by millions of people within a few days and was published in 86 countries around the world. After that people from all over the world contacted me and asked me to walk on the catwalks, companies started working with me and I started traveling and advocating for the disability community.

What have been some of your career highlights so far?

Being named the first professional adult model with Down Syndrome, walking in 8 seasons of NYFW, Russia Fashion Week, Mercedes Benz fashion week China, Paris Fashion Week, London Fashion Week, Runway Dubai and many more. I was the first person with DS to be featured in Vogue and the only person in history with an intellectual disability to get a working visa in the USA. As an advocate working in Uganda, South Africa, the Ukraine, Lebanon, the USA educating people that people with disabilities are capable and deserve a place in our society. There have been so many amazing experiences, it is impossible to put them all on paper.

What kind of impact do you hope your work has on the industry?

When I first started modeling you never saw people with disabilities on the runway or in big brand activations, now seven years later we see people on most runways and in most campaigns. The world has changed and I feel very blessed to be a big part of that.


Madeline Stuart

What’s one thing you would change when it comes to conversations around disability inclusivity? 

The conversation itself, some people still are scared to talk to people with disabilities, it can be very isolating. The worst thing is when people see you but refer to the people with you when they want to know something. When I am out with my mum people always ask her questions about me or ask if they can get a photo with me, she always says to them to ask me but it should not be that way, I am 25 and am my own person, it can be upsetting.

 Are there any brands you think are “doing it right” in this sense? 

Yes, I feel Tommy Hilfiger. They have an adaptive range which is amazing. I worked with Boss recently and I believe with time they may go down the same path. Brands are trying to be more inclusive and this can only get better with time.



Charli Howard, Model, Body-Positive Activist, and Founder of Squish

After being told she was “too big” for straight-size modeling and “too small” for the plus-size market, Charli Howard began publishing her writing on body image in the hopes of inspiring a new generation of confident young people. She also co-founded Squish, a skincare line with inclusion at its core.

How long have you been modeling, and how did you get into it? 

When I was 21(which is old by modeling standards), my friend sent my Facebook photos off to agencies, and suddenly, they were interested again. I lost weight and started working as a “regular” model, but that didn’t work out for me. I was often considered the “curvier” girl on set as a size U.S. 4, which is insane to me now. When I eventually got dropped for being “too big,” I wrote an online post that went viral and then went to New York for work. It was there I discovered plus-size modeling, but then I was too small for that market. So I started representing the natural body I had, and suddenly, I started working for the first time in my life.

What kind of impact do you hope your work has on the industry?

I don’t know how much my work has impacted the industry, but I’d like to think it kick-started a conversation about treating models as people and what the role of showcasing unhealthy bodies has had on women as a society. We forget how influential fashion is. Girls grow up aspiring to work in the industry, afford luxury clothes, or want to be beautiful. I want women to know they’re more than that.

How would you suggest beginning the process of unlearning all the negative self-talk we internalize from a young age?

I’d encourage people to be “body neutral.” It’s about viewing your body as simply a body and trying not to put too much emphasis on loving the way you look, which is where I think body positivity gets it wrong sometimes. That in itself can be draining. Hang around good people and cut out the toxic ones, eat delicious food, find a job that makes you happy, and you’ll start realizing that there’s more to life than your looks anyway.



Are there any brands you think are doing it right?

I think British Vogue is just nailing it image-wise. They have transformed the fashion industry, and brands have followed suit. Being inclusive or using bigger bodies does not make clothing less desirable. I do think a lot of the more up-and-coming designers are using curvier models and were using curvier models before the high-end, mainstream designers jumped on board, though.

What prompted you to want to launch Squish, and what’s the ethos of the brand?

I always wanted to own a beauty or skincare brand and felt there was a real gap in the market for a brand that wasn’t that millennial baby-pink shade or clinically white. I struggled with acne really badly in my early 20s and felt so ashamed of it. There is so much stigma attached to having cystic acne, and I hated people making comments on what I should clean it with or what I should eat. So when I created our Flower Power Acne Patches, I wanted to make light of something normal and take that embarrassment away—something you’d wear in front of your boyfriend on the sofa or even wear outside. (Girls tell us they wear the acne patches to the shops!) From there, our product line grew. We have an amazing nonsticky ’90s lip gloss, a hydrating and priming moisturizer, and our Cheeky Cherry Eye & Cheek Masks that hydrate your skin. Our range is fun, it’s inclusive, and we show products on real skin, which I think is also important.

April Lockhart, Content Creator

April Lockhart is a Nashville-based content creator who’s garnered a following on Instagram and TikTok for her colorful, eclectic sense of style. Recently, Lockhart launched a series entitled “Normalizing Disabled Fashun Girlies in Your Feed” where she shows off her daily outfits and celebrates her own disability.

What’s one thing you would change when it comes to conversations around ability inclusivity?

That these conversations would become more normal, and happen more often. That’s why I called my series “Normalizing Disabled Fashun Girlies” – because right now it’s very much not the norm. It still feels taboo for people to talk about disabilities, maybe they feel like they might say something wrong or hurt someone’s feelings. But for me, I would love for it to start to become part of the conversations we’re already having around inclusivity.  

You’ve written before about how launching your series “normalizing fashion girlies with disabilities in your feed” was a pivotal moment for you both personally and professionally, marking the first time you showed off your disability in full rather than hid it. What prompted you to launch it? 

It took me a few days to finally push “post” but I had made the decision that I really wanted this to be something I talked about. I had a small platform so I wanted to use it. I live and breathe in the influencer world (I work in influencer marketing for my 9-to-5), and I had never really seen a creator who I felt represented me. The more I thought about why we’re all on the Internet, the more I knew I wanted to do this – people are looking for authenticity, uniqueness.. And I felt an internal push to stop trying to hide that. 

How do you think the industry can be more inclusive of all women?

There’s always some up-front work to be done for brands who aren’t already doing it – actively trying to add disabled creators to their existing community, working with them on campaigns, weaving them naturally into marketing. Empowering them and making them feel like an equally important part of their community versus a token moment. Sharing joyful moments lifting up disabled women. 

What kind of impact do you hope your work has on the industry?

I’m hopeful to see shifts in marketing as a start – and product in the long-run. It’s amazing to see the strides we’ve made with diversity and inclusion in marketing, but sometimes feels like the disabled community is the last group to be represented – maybe it’s because brands don’t know how to approach it, but I’m hoping that changes, and trying to do my small part at normalizing it. In the long-run, I’d love to see brands launch adaptive capsule collections. 

Which brands do you think are “doing it right” in this sense?

You Swim, Girlfriend Collective, UGG (who I recently learned has a line called UGG Universal for easy access for those with disabilities), Free People, Aerie are a few that I love who I think have shown some real strides in disabled inclusivity.


Karoline Vitto; 11 Honoré; Wray

11 Honoré began as a luxury retailer exclusively carrying plus sizes. Today, it’s putting its own footprint on the plus-size shopping space with a namesake collection and bi-annual New York Fashion Week Show. We’re chatting with Design Director Danielle Williams-Eke.

What was the impetus for launching 11 Honoré? What gap in the market do you hope it fulfills?

The impetus for launching 11 Honoré was and continues to be to serve the plus-size woman luxury fashion. For so many years the fashion industry has ignored this customer, especially in the high-end & contemporary markets. We strive not only to offer the most amazing clothing but also to build a community for our customers.

What we know is that the plus-size woman is not monolithic. With our diverse product assortment, we are able to serve women with varying personal styles and aesthetics. From casual elevated essentials to stunning evening gowns, we are the ultimate shopping destination.

What have been some of your career highlights so far?

My most recent career highlight was showing the 11 Honoré Spring ’22 Collection at NYFW. While I have had the opportunity to experience NYFW as a part of a design team, experiencing it as the Design Director has been the goal since the first day of fashion school. My journey to this point has not been easy but every internship, degree program, and position has been worthwhile.

What kind of impact do you hope your work has on the industry?

Ultimately I hope my work widens the eyes of the fashion industry. The plus consumer needs to be seen, acknowledge, considered and served in the broader fashion conversation. We can no longer be an option and my hope is that our work at 11 Honoré makes that reality.


11 Honoré

What’s one thing you would change when it comes to conversations around size inclusivity?

I think the one thing I would change when it comes to conversations around size and inclusivity is the myth that plus-size women aren’t ready for on-trend clothing. We have talked to many retailers who are committed to serving this customer fashion-forward clothing and thus investing in building their plus departments, while others are still a bit hesitant about the viability of such an investment. I hope that our presence and growth is proof that this customer is ready.

What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered in your path to building 11 Honoré?

One of the initial challenges in building 11 Honoré was getting designers to be a part of our platform. We really had to advocate on behalf of this customer to get many of the designers to see why it was necessary for their businesses to move towards inclusivity.



abacaxi, which means pineapple in Portuguese, is a Brooklyn, NY-based line that focuses on hand-crafted materials, hand-dyed fabrics, and supporting local artisens. 

How long have you been designing for and how did you get into it?

I studied visual art and textile design and after a few years of trying to find a way into the industry in NYC, finally began working as an assistant print and textile designer for other brands. I did that for several years and then first launched abacaxi while I was a freelance designer in 2013. 

What is the ethos of the brand and what are some signature pieces you’re most known for?

Everything is designed with inclusivity and versatility in mind-I have a tendency to make things that can either be draped and worn and used in a multitude of ways, or be reversible, or stretch to fit several sizes. I’m very inspired by traditional dress- the sari for example – one garment that can fit almost anyone. This also goes hand in hand with sustainability, creating pieces that are meant to last and be re-used over time. 

The Eva Dress has been one of my biggest bestsellers, I’m sure because of it’s flattering fit on all body sizes and shapes, and very reasonable price considering the amount and quality of the Indian cotton fabric. Because the bodice is made of elasticized smocking, it stretches and moves with you and allows for some changes in sizing from one year to the next. We just launched a mini-version of this dress as part of the new Stingray collection, in a plant-dyed custom weave organic cotton which I am super excited about. 

The Divya Blouse and Divya Dress, named after my sister, are also signature pieces inspired by the sari. They are one-shoulder and have a pleated scarf attachment that can be worn in several different ways.



Why is ethical production important to you and how do you support the artisans you work with to bring abacaxi to life?

I really do cherish every opportunity to work with handloom weavers and artisans who are practicing ancestral crafts, which are at risk of disappearing. As a weaver and a textile designer I get most excited about the custom fabric design process and seeing skilled artisans be able to bring my designs into fruition. But beyond that, when you buy one of our pieces, you are not only receiving a beautiful, quality garment, you are also directly supporting the people that have built their community around these exquisite traditions.

What have been some of your career highlights so far?

The latest thing that really excited me was styling an abacaxi editorial for Vogue India and working with model Anita Jane Pathammavong, and my friend and photographer Ankur Maniar on this project. 

In 2020, I was chosen as part of Teen Vogue’s Generation Next program, which was a highlight for abacaxi to be recognized in that way, mid-pandemic and all. 

Another highlight was definitely producing my first runway show in October 2021, for the Stingray spring-summer 2022 collection which just launched in our shop. I actually worked on the casting myself as well and brought together a beautiful group of diverse models who I have been working with over the past several years. We also had an all-femme and queer crew and just had the best time that day. It was incredible to all be together in one space after a couple of years of isolation, it felt like a very celebratory moment not just for me and for abacaxi, but for the models hopefully as well. Many connections were made that day. 

How do you think the industry can be more inclusive of all women?

When it comes to inclusivity for women, the conversation has to include trans women and non-binary gender as well.


Luca Fonesca/Courtesy of Karoline Vitto

London-based designer Karoline Vitto caught out attention right off the bat. Not only are her garments works of art in their own right, but the label is also setting the precedent that skimpy silhouettes and sultry cutouts are suitable for any body shape.

How long have you been designing for and how did you get into it?

I have been working in design since I moved to London in 2016, after graduating from my BA in Brazil, and I have worked across a few different brands in studio roles. I have started designing for myself during my MA at the Royal College of Art (2019). The work I produced there became the creative basis upon which I built my brand.

What have been some of your career highlights so far?

Definitely the cover of Vogue Brazil with Precious Lee. I received a request from the fashion editor to create an exclusive look for her, which was such an incredible opportunity. The final photo looks stunning. Since then, my brand has been featured on several issues of Vogue Brazil and Portugal, which has been amazing to see. I love bringing the work back to where I am from and seeing how it goes through its own journey there.

What kind of impact do you hope your work has on the industry?

After being over a year in business as an independent online brand, facing all the challenges that a small brand does, rather than hoping to change the industry, I am more interested in creating a positive change for the end customers.  I hope people feel more seen, and just part of the conversation. I grew up in the 90s and 2000s, when we all felt like we needed to look a certain way to be able to wear something. That has no place in my life anymore, and I hope I can help other people feel the same.


Luca Fonesca courtesy of Karoline Vitto

How do you think the industry can be more inclusive of all women?

The conversation needs to start from the beginning of the design process, from hiring, to listening to diverse customers, to sampling. When you consider the whole journey of the collection, from designing, to fitting, to manufacturing, to wholesale and then retail, inclusivity should touch on all of these points. That means, for example, factories being prepared to work with extended sizes, buyers ordering larger sizes, retailers being ready to welcome extended sizes customers in their stores.

What’s one thing you would change when it comes to conversations around size inclusivity?

What is really frustrating for me is to see the “size-washing” or appropriation of size-inclusivity, its popularity makes it become mandatory from a marketing point of view for brands that have never been interested in it before. This past season, I’ve seen it across almost every show. There are 1 or 2 curve models cast, and suddenly the brand is labeled as inclusive when 80% of the cast is a size zero. To me, that is not inclusive. Those 1 or 2 looks will be the only samples that the brand will have in a larger size, so what kind of message does that send? And suddenly they become the viral image of that brand across magazines and social media. So I wish that there was less like-chasing and click-baiting with inclusivity and more real investment, more buyers placing orders in larger sizes, and more support to the small brands that are putting in the hard work.

Coming up: For Trans Women, Fashion Is More Than Just Clothes—for These 4, It’s Everything