For Alva Claire McKenzie – who goes only by Alva Claire – not making it as a model was never an option. Which is why, in September 2020, after a decade in the industry, she found herself making fashion history as one of the first ‘plus-sized’ models to ever walk for Versace – a testament to her hard work, self-belief, and determination. The south London-born model credits her parents, who are both artists, with imbuing in her the sense of self and creativity that allowed this dedication and will to blossom. That, and her 2018 move to Brooklyn, where she found her stride in a New York industry that she felt was a leap ahead of its London counterpart when it came to size inclusivity.
After the Versace show, Alva Claire became an immediate sensation, walking for Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty just weeks later, and, in the two years since, has continued to dominate the industry, shooting campaigns for Ivy Park and Calvin Klein editorials, and even creating a collaborative collection with emerging Danish label OpéraSPORT.
It hasn’t always been an easy ride, though – Alva Claire has spoken openly about the difficulties of being a ‘curve’ model in an industry that still glorifies thinness, including the rampant fatphobia and the homogeneity when it comes to clothing choices. In a recent interview with Dazed, she said of the latter: “I want to see women like us given freedom, a real sense of expression of the individual, and not to be put in a box of the way this industry and society thinks we should be.” Nevertheless, she’s feeling optimistic about fashion’s future. “It’s an exciting, transformative time in fashion, and I can’t wait to see all that is to come.”
Text Brit Dawson