Is the Modelling Industry Embracing Feminism?

Meet the models using their platform to make a change.

As the fashion world expands its global reach, many of the world’s most famous supermodels are not only killing it on the catwalk, but are also challenging our expectations by proving to us that there's more to Vogue-type notoriety than just tabloid headlines and booking campaigns. Models and supermodels alike are now using their platform to bring attention to causes that affect women socially, financially, and psychologically on a global level. (And they’re doing it with style, ofc.)

Between models, designers, and the occasional pop star, supermodel Karlie Kloss seems to be everyone's BFF.  In addition to being the star and creator of her own YouTube channel, Karlie has also become an avid coder, and in 2015 she created Kode with Klossy, a scholarship program offering young women the chance to gain experience and knowledge in male dominated fields such as computer sciences and software engineering. Apart from her countless entrepreneurial endeavours, Karlie has also collaborated with a number of designers to champion the message of women supporting other women. Earlier this year she starred in Diane Von Furstenberg’s Spring 2016 campaign, for which the designer praised her for remaining true to the DVF motto: “be the woman you want to be.” In the campaign’s behind-the-scenes video, the two are overheard discussing the positive influence women have had on their lives and when Diane remarks that, “no one ever told [Karlie] ‘you can’t do this because you’re a girl,’ ” Karlie shakes her head. “Just the opposite. It almost felt like I wanted things more [because of it].”

On the other side of the globe, supermodel Liya Kebede was born in Addis Ababa, the bustling capital of Ethiopia, where maternal deaths occur at an epidemic rate. After becoming the World Health Organization's Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health, the model and mother of two decided to do more for her fellow Ethiopian mothers by founding the Liya Kebede Foundation, which aims to provide efficient material and training to ensure the health and safety of future generations of mothers. Then, back in 2007, following a trip to her country of birth, she also went the extra mile in enabling Ethiopian women to flourish as entrepreneurs by launching the clothing line Lemlem, composed of a hard-working team of artisans who, thanks to Liya, now have a platform to become financially independent while preserving their traditional hand-woven techniques. Liya used the platform that modeling gave her to help other women step up too.

One of the most exciting young faces (and minds, ofc) in the fashion industry right now is Adwoa Aboah. While her freckled face, bored stare, and buzz cut might give her a mesmerizing allure that has landed her on many a magazine cover, it’s her efforts to shatter the pressures of body image and the effects it often has on girls and women that make her a standout individual.  The London-based model told W that she uses "the connections and the finances" from modelling to grow Gurls Talk by going on school visits across the city. Drawing on her own past with depression, addiction, and a suicide attempt that left her in a coma for 4 days, Adwoa launched Gurls Talk as a space where she can share her unmasked opinion and start a dialogue on the causes that affects us all as young women with over 36,000 supportive Instagram followers.

For generations, those skeptical of the fashion industry have assumed that being an active feminist and participating in modeling were mutually exclusive. Of course they aren’t. These outspoken women continue to show us that, in this day and age, there’s more to being a model than knowing how to stay still in front of the camera; it’s about staying vocal and involved with so that you can stay in the action even while you’re off camera.

Main Image via @gurlstalk

Read more: Watch Miu Miu's epic short film about sisterhood, skateboarding, and the female experience.  Then learn about why being a conscious shopper is a seriously feminist move.

Rika Mpogazi is a Deputy Fashion Features Contributor at Couturesque Magazine. Her style alternates from flowy peasant blouses and seventies flared pants to head to toe monochromatic minimalism. Her opinion, however, is as stubbornly imposing as the game changing fashion figures she loves to write about (and occasionally stalk when she's navigating through Instagram @la.sappe).

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I founded Couturesque Magazine when I was 15 years old because like many of my peers, I felt ignored and talked down to by all of the other teen fashion publications out there. I figured that at the end of the day, the people who knew the most about my generation, were the people who belonged to it. The fashion industry is becoming increasingly dependent on the creativity of younger voices who challenge the status quo and make us rethink what we wear and why we wear it. And that is exactly what Couturesque set out to celebrate - authenticity, intelligence, originality, and diversity... in other words, what makes Gen-Z tick. Fast-forward to 2016 and we now have a staff of more than a dozen fashion distruptors contributing to our daily content from all around the globe, 100K+ readers following us from Toronto to New York, to London, Copenhagen, Berlin, Tokyo, and Tel Aviv, and a plethora of big-wig industry fans and collaborators. But what matters to us the most is the responsibility that our publication has to make a positive impact in the lives of those who come across it - we stand against retouching our photoshoots and we stand for sharing the beautiful, individual, complex voices of everyone, especially those who feel marginalized by mainstream fashion media. We hope that you love our site as much as we do and that you take the time to follow us (Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Pinterest / Tumblr / Snapchat / YouTube) throughout our journey to make fashion accessible to the powerful young adults of today.

Tia Elisabeth Glista
Editor in Chief