There are a few notable firsts this Milan fashion week, operating under a pandemic for one, but also progress for one of its greatest faults: the lack of diversity. Just earlier this year, Paloma Elsesser and Jill Kortleve became the first plus-sized models to walk Fendi in the house's history. And just earlier last week, Italian luxury house Versace hit that very same milestone with not one, but three plus-sized models, casting Alva Claire, Precious Lee, and Jill Kortleve alongside their regular mainstays that includes Joan Smalls and Irina Shayk.
For both Lee and Claire, the Versace Spring/Summer 2021 show marked their Milan debuts while for Kortleve, it was her third show after walking Etro and Fendi. For the show, the models were clad in Donatella Versace's finest underwater wear, a colourful interpretation of what mermaid folk must wear to go out dancing.
Casted by industy vet Piergiorgio del Moro, the trio's apperance comes at a time when many are reconsidering the long-held conventions of the runway. "It’s so unbelievable to work for brands I always dreamt of working for," Kortleve wrote on her Instagram. "I hope that we open the doors for a new generation with the same dreams but who never saw themselves in the magazines or the commercials."
Since the designer's tribute to her late brother in 2017 with the five supers (Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Helena Christensen, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, and Claudia Schiffer), Versace has made a habit of runway surprises as of late. A year ago, Jennifer Lopez reprised her Internet-defining Grammys dress for Versace's jungle themed-runway, and others like Emily Ratajkowski and Stephanie Seymour have lent themselves to recent catwalk cameos.
"VERSACE SS21 !!!!I’m so emotional writing this, to walk for the iconic Versace has always been a huge dream of mine!! I am so proud of @preciousleexoxo @jilla.tequila and myself we made history with this and I will never forget how I feel right now! This moment is for all of us!!! I’m full of love!!"
"Anybody that knows me or ever spoke to me about fashion know without a doubt how I feel about The House of Versace. It’s ALWAYS been about Versace for me. Queen @donatella_versace your support and love right now for me is just magical. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for raising the bar. I know how much this means and I will always cherish it. Not one little black girl can say they can’t because we can, we always could and when you stay true, you will✨💪🏾✨ "
"This is such an historical moment and I can’t believe it actually happened. Im still shaking. Im so so so proud of us @alvaclaire @preciousleexoxo .It’s so unbelievable to work for brands I always dreamt of working for. I hope that we open the doors for a new generation with the same dreams but who never saw themselves in the magazines or the commercials."