It’s true that beauty ideals have evolved steadily over time, but last year saw a huge shift in what the fashion and beauty industry deem to be the ideal way to look. This change was fuelled by scrutiny towards the modelling industry due to the lack of diversity amongst their models, and this has paved the way for a wave of new and influential models to transform the face of the fashion industry.

The Aesthetic Revolution

Tess Holiday

The creator of the #effyourbeautystandards movement which is making waves on Instagram, Tess is a self-titled “body-acceptance activist” who has rigorously challenged industry size ideals. She made history in January 2015,  when at 5’5” and a UK size 24 she became the largest plus size model of her height and weight to sign to a mainstream modelling agency. As well as becoming a model at London based MiLK Model Management, she has also fronted campaigns for plus size brands such as Yours and Simply Be.

Winnie Harlow


This 21 year old Canadian model was rejected by every modelling agency in her hometown of Toronto due to her skin condition vitiligo. Despite this, she went on to gain a huge online following before making a name for herself within the modelling industry. In 2015 she landed a spot alongside models Gryphon O’Shea and Charlotte Free in Diesel’s SS15 campaign.

She says “Everyone has differences, and I feel like I stand for being different and accepting yourself”.

Iris Apfel


Well into her 90s, this newfound model, fashionista and former interior designer defines herself as a ‘geriatric starlet’. Apfel’s fame and subsequent modelling career are a result of her eccentric ensembles and her huge personal archive of designer and ethnic clothing and accessories.

In spring 2014, she was the face of two collections: one of them for Kate Spade, alongside the Victoria’s Secret model Karlie Kloss. Despite undergoing two hip operations (one of which was caused by tripping over the hem of an Oscar de la Renta dress at a fashion shoot in Paris), she continues to grace countless fashion magazine covers.

Nykhor Paul


This Sudanese model, who was previously the face have Louis Vuitton, took to Instagram last year to voice her grievances towards the industry’s inability to cater towards models of colour. Her outrage sparked a largely positive debate about an issue that appears to have affected a large number of black models.

“Dear white people in the fashion world, it’s time you people get your shit right.”

She called out hair stylists and MUAs that work with models for their lack of professionalism and claimed that she had to bring her own make-up products to shows.

“It’s been a constant battle. Dealing with all the make-up issues, skin issues, hair issues, it makes you feel inadequate”.

Mariah Idrissi


As the first model to appear in a H&M campaign wearing a hijab, this 23 year old Londoner made history in 2015. As a woman with Pakistani and Morrocan heritage, she was amongst a few religious and ethnic minorities to be featured in the retailer’s video campaign, which was designed to encourage shoppers to recycle clothes at their store as part of H&M’s new sustainable initiative.

Hari Nef


Back in 2014, Hari took first place in Dazed magazine’s top 100 list of game-changing creatives, beating the likes of Kendall Jenner. More recently, the young model helped to spark a trans-revolution by walking for several designers at the A/W15 New York fashion week.

In June, she signed to the illustrious modelling agency IMG who also have Giselle Bundchen on their books. Nef’s modelling career demonstrates a significant shift in the industry’s attitude towards transgender models.

Stefania Ferrario

This Australian model created #droptheplus after growing tired of being labelled as a ‘plus-size’ model. The model, who wears a UK size 12, posted on Instagram: “I am a model FULL STOP. Unfortunately in the modelling industry if you’re above a US size 4 you are considered plus size and so I’m often labelled a ‘plus size’ model. I do NOT find this empowering”.

She created the hashtag with former Biggest Loser host Ajay Rochester, as they both felt that the terminology was “damaging for the minds of young girls.”

Jillian Mercado

This 28 year old is a model and fashion blogger also happens to be a wheelchair user with muscular dystrophy. “I want to remove the stigma that people who look different can’t be in the industry” she says. She signed to IMG modelling agency last year after appearing in Diesel’s online cast campaign #DieselReboot in 2014.

It’s clear Mercado is passionate about fuelling the discussion about the representation of people with disabilities in fashion: “The challenge is to not to stop talking about it. This isn’t some kind of fad that will come and go, not while I’m around.”



Deemed to be ‘the face of the future’, Lightning is the face of Louis Vuitton’s Spring/Summer 2016 campaign. If Lightning looks familiar to you, it’s definitely not because you’ve passed her in the street; she is, in fact, a character from the highly successful video game franchise Final Fantasy.

This isn’t the first time Final Fantasy characters have been used in fashion. Lightning and her fellow characters appeared in a Japanese magazine editorial for Prada back in 2012. With the theme of the upcoming 2016 Met Gala being “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology“, it seems that the future of modelling could go digital, abolishing the demand for real-life models entirely. Needless to say, the aesthetics of video games characters is not something anyone should hope to, or could realistically, achieve.

The Modelling Ideal?

So what’s the future ‘ideal’ for 2016? Is the fashion industry telling us to become transgender, plus size or somehow transform ourselves into cartoon characters in order to reflect current trends?

I don’t think so.

Admittedly it’s possible that the fashion industry is capitalising on the advancements of transgender rights and acceptance, racial diversity and the elderly in order to appear ‘cool’ and ‘edgy’. Or it could simply be the case that the fashion and beauty industries are finally telling us to accept ourselves for who we are, no matter how much we differ from the ideals they’ve been presenting to us in the past.

Whatever the reason, these shifts certainly aren’t a bad thing. What this year will bring, though, is anyone’s guess.

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