Despite an attempt to ban them at the event, a gang of designers are involving infant models in their catwalks, presentations and campaigns – they tell us why
Last season, Anna Wintour reportedly lobbied to ban babies at fashion week, following North West’s disruptive behaviour at the inaugural Yeezy presentation. This season, not only are babies front row observers, but they have been spotted modelling for a select group of New York designers’ NYFW shows and presentations. Vaquera, Vejas, Eckhaus Latta and Gypsy Sport, labels known for their diverse casting and gender-neutral designs, used infants or pregnant models this season to model and display their clothing. But that’s not to say no one has ever sent a baby down a runway before. Dolce & Gabbana’s Milan Fashion Week show for AW15 featured a hefty line up of tots sporting their newest designs, and for Chanel’s AW14 couture show, Karl Lagerlfeld walked a heavily pregnant Ashleigh Good down the catwalk. But this season, the meaning goes beyond novelty.
To start with, the last few months have seen a shift in the way parents are raising children in America. International retailers like Target and Babies"R"Us abolished the separation of certain gender specific products, giving parents and children freedom to shop based on preference and not expectations. This very public layout adjustment ignited major criticism from conservatives and religious types, but remains indicative of the progressive direction our society is headed. Like these major corporations, the aforementioned independent designers are deliberately producing garments left open to interpretation, and thus are a reflection of the turning point for sexuality and gender that both fashion and society is undergoing.
“It was a nice comment on femininity, growth, family.” Rio Uribe from Gypsy Sport noted in relation to having pregnant model opening his SS16 NYFW show. “I'd like to make Gypsy Sport into a household name, and this is a sign of that.” Being known for forward thinking and non-demographic clothing, Gypsy Sport’s casting was just as eccentric as the garments. The show featured plus-size, Insta-famous and multi-ethnicity girls and guys, as well as the special pregnant model – displaying all the different ways, styles and people who could pull off Gypsy’s designs.
To many of these designers, babies are symbols of family and reflect the importance of friends, which aligns closely with their brand ethos. Stylist Avena Gallagher, who works with Eckhaus Latta and Vaquera, involved her baby in the campaign material for both of these like-minded labels. A few days before their SS16 show, Eckhaus Latta ‘grammed a baby wearing an EL mesh sack, with caption “here comes fashion week” (perhaps forewarning us of the baby takeover this season). “We have always wanted to work with pregnant women and babies,” Mike from Eckhaus Latta noted. “The baby you saw on our Instagram is Malcolm, Avena Gallagher who we work with on styling's baby. He is the coolest.” Malcolm was also featured in Vaquera’s 03 Campaign, and designer Patric DiCaprio was inspired by Avena’s close relationship with her son.
“I wanted to include my friend Bunny in the show and it only made sense to me that her infant daughter Niagara would walk with her.” Dicaprio told us. “I was with my stylist for the show, Avena Gallagher, whom I photographed with her infant son Malcolm in the Vaquera 03 campaign, in Singapore shortly before the show. She described that being away from her infant child felt comparable to a phantom limb, that she had left behind part of herself when we left the country. When someone is walking or posing for my brand I want them to feel completely themselves – I can’t imagine that being possible if a part of your being is in another room or another country.”
“For these designers, casting a child or pregnant woman demonstrates their disregard for the standards of the industry, and their desire to stand out”
For these designers, casting a child or pregnant woman demonstrates their disregard for the standards of the industry, and their desire to stand out. And like these labels, infants are blank canvases. A baby is the purest human form, free from any preconceived ideas. This is how these liberated designers would hope their brands would be received. “I would like to think we don’t just design for some young hip scene but a broader age range, so it’s a bit of a testament that the clothing accepted the child you know?” Marcus Cuffie, who styled Vejas, told us. “We want a mother to see Vejas and say “that’s something I can raise a family in.”
Ultimately, the baby is a sign of growth and the future. It’s a metaphor for the next generation of open-minded individuals, who live in a society free of prejudice and gender targeted clothing. “We’re aware the brand is going to grow but we prefer it to grow slowly.” Cuffie noted. “Ideas evolve slowly, so maybe next year we’ll have a toddler."