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Melbourne Fashion Festival accused of snubbing plus-size models

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Curve models have slammed a major Australian fashion event for a “deliberate” lack of size diversity on its runways.

The accusation that the Melbourne Fashion Festival (MFF) chose not to cast a large enough number of plus-size models has been made by those both on the runway and off.

The MFF board made a “really clear decision to not cast models above a size 12-14”, according to the chief executive of modelling agency Bella Management and size diversity activist Chelsea Bonner.

“There’s just no excuse this year, it was such a deliberate casting direction.

“They were presented with every single one of our models up to a size 22 multiples times, and my director in Melbourne kept asking why they wouldn’t cast any models over a size 14 and those emails just went ignored.”

Jess Seeto, one of the two plus-size models who walked in MFF’s final show, said the experience made her feel “ostracised”.

“It didn’t feel right that there were only two plus-size models and two models of disabilities there,” Ms Seeto said.

“It really sucked and made me feel like I was the token ethnic fat person there and that I was just there to tick a box, which didn’t feel right.”

According to Ms Seeto, out of the cohort of about 30 models who walked in the final show, only five were “models of diversity”, including curve models and those with a disability.

In response to questions from NCA NewsWire, MFF said it “engaged models and spokespeople from diverse backgrounds” and 10 of its premium runways featured curve talent.

“The festival cares deeply about accessibility, diversity and inclusion and will continue to place great emphasis on this as part of our programming and casting in future events,” a spokesperson said.

The festival also featured the Fabulous And Trendy (F.A.T.) Plus-Size Runway, a dedicated runway for models sized 16-24 and a plus-size market.

Ms Seeto said she was in tears after her fitting for the final show, with comments made about how the clothing fitted her despite the size 16 model being forced to try on size 12 garments.

“I had a cry after the fitting because I really struggle and a lot of fat people struggle with the feeling of they don’t fit clothing when clothing is supposed to fit them,” she said.

“In that moment I felt like I shouldn’t be there.”

Ms Bonner confirmed that some of the girls from her agency left the MFF fittings in tears over comments made however said she didn’t believe they were personal attacks but rather general hurtful comments made towards those with larger bodies.

“(Fatphobia) corrupts the thinking of everybody involved, not just the models. It corrupts the stylists, the casting directors, the magazines for advertisers,” she said.

A spokesperson said the MFF was unaware of models who left fittings feeling uncomfortable and action would have been taken if the festival had been made aware.

The lack of representation throughout the festival forced one model to take a stand, with Maia O‘Connor wearing a shirt with the words “WHERE ARE THE FAT B*TCHES AT? SIZE 10 DOESN’T COUNT! DO BETTER!” emblazoned on the back

Ms O’Connor sat through numerous shows at MFF this year and was appalled by the lack of diversity after the body positivity movement pushed curve models to the forefront of the fashion industry.

“What are we working for if we can just get to one festival and all of that hard work is undone? A group of people can sit together around a table and just decide that they don’t really care,” she said.

She said she saw attendees read her shirt; however, the majority of them “turned their backs” to the message.

“It was like there was this massive elephant in the room and I had just pointed it out and everyone was trying to close their eyes to it,“ she said.

Ms Bonner urged the MFF to take a different direction with their casting in the following years.

“I just hope they really deeply think about their direction for next year because it was insulting to everyone this year,” she said.

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