Faces of Change: Diversifying The Runways of AW21

The conversation regarding inclusivity in the fashion world has evolved over recent years. With more diversity and realism on the runway this year than ever before, the fashion world is progressing beyond traditional narratives and seeking change.

Credit: CNN

Ella Emhoff

As the daughter of U.S. second gentleman Doug Emhoff and stepdaughter of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, Ella Emhoff is a member of the Second Family of the United States of America.

While all eyes were on Joe Biden and Kamala Harris at the US inauguration, Emhoff created quite a stir with her embellished Miu Miu coat.

Credit: Harpers Bazaar

Shortly thereafter, the “First Daughter of Bushwick” was pleasantly surprised to receive an offer from IMG Models. Just a few weeks later, Emhoff made her runway debut on the catwalk of Proenza Schouler’s all-digital AW21 show for NYFW.

Credit: Evening Standard

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the fashion show was filmed two in advance at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York — home of the Hamptons elite and the eclectic art scene. The 21-year-old apparel and textiles major leaves the School of Design in New York City this year. Emhoff has a strong talent for knitwear design and the California native will be focusing on her design craft once she’s graduated. Another area of focus for Emhoff is her charity work within the trans community. The second daughter has been celebrated for her ongoing support and donation to LGBT-focused support groups.

Recently, the model/designer raffled off a series of her handmade pieces for two selected charities. For The Gworls, which raises funds to assist the black trans community members’ rent & gender affirmative surgeries. The Okra Project is a collective that seeks to address the global crisis of violence by providing resources and meals to Black Trans people worldwide. These charities are two vital initiatives supporting Black transgender women today.

First Daughter of Bushwick

The designer-turned-model walked the runway for Proenza Schouler at New York Fashion Week on February 18th, 2021, the runway video debuting on the brand’s Instagram page. Emhoff also formed part in a panel discussion with Proenza Schouler designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez at Spring Studios.

Emhoff tells the New York Times,

“As someone who, like a lot of young girls out there, had self-confidence issues, it is intimidating and scary to go into this world that is hyper-focused on you and the body.” Emhoff cited her hopes to be, quote, “part of that change” in the modeling world with her unique aesthetic.”

Here is Emhoff, discussing her first NYFW experience with Proenza Schouler designers Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough:

In February, Emhoff sold bespoke, knitted separates on Mall, an online vendor for independent designers. Nearly all products sold out within a half hour, as reported by The New York Times. Prices ranged from $160 for striped knit shorts to $320 for a matching dress. A Tweety bag which Emhoff had shared on her social media sold at $260, and two sets of pullover sweater vests were ticketed at $300 and $260, respectively.

Art focused Emhoff also has a talent for niche art form ‘stick-and-poke tattoos’ and likes to practice  in her down time, utilising herself as the canvas.

Akon Changkou

Adon Changkou represents a welcome shift toward racial diversity on catwalks. Born in South Sudan, Changkou’s family relocated to Adelaide, Australia when she was just nine years old.

Whilst living in Adelaide, an agency scouted Changkou on Instagram. Four months later, she found herself living in New York with a full portfolio and an elite runway show under her belt. In 2020, Changkou walked the Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer 2020 runway show, marking her first fashion show with a major design house. In line with her early relocation from Sudan to Australia, Changkou’s favourite part of the modelling game is travelling.

The now 23-year-old model is navigating the ins and outs of the industry from her second home in New York City.

Credit: Exhibition

The Fall 2021 catwalks saw Changkou appear for Louis Vuitton, Coperni, Acne Studios and Valentino.

In addition to the live runway shows, Changkou also appeared in several Vogue editorials worldwide. And she has graced the cover of Exhibition Magazine.

Whilst at home in Adelaide she loves to visit the beach and lounge around in swimwear in The Australian sun.

A self-confessed sneaker head, she likes to keep her style casual whilst exploring the concrete jungles of New York; this is where she can be found exploring the urban landscape on her days off. She’s generally found wearing classic Stan Smiths or Jordans daily.


Precious Lee

Lee has recently walked Versace AW21 as one of the first curve models in Versace’s 43 year history.

Credit: Allure

Precious Lee grew up in Atlanta. She affectionately describes herself as ‘the chunky cheerleader’ in high school. After being discovered in Atlanta, Precious launched her modeling career at the age of 18. Since then, her career has skyrocketed. She’s appeared at New York Fashion Week for designers Christian Siriano, Tommy Hilfiger and Matthew Adams Nolan. Precious has been featured in publications such as Love Magazine, Glamour, Allure, Paper Magazine, V Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, and M Le Monde. She also appeared on the cover of Vogue Italia September 2020. She has worked with some of the most notable photographers in the industry, including Cass Bird, Inez and Vinoodh, Mark Borthwick, Ethan James Green, Tyler Mitchell and Juergen Teller.

Whilst studying communications in college, Lee worked her way up the modelling ranks from her grassroots in catalog shoots. She rose to stardom for Lane Bryant due to the brand’s #PlusIsEqual campaign. Her curves decorated billboards which promoted the brand with a commercial to match in 2015.

Credit: My Trend Lab

American Beauty

The subsequent advertisement in a September 2015 issue of American Vogue saw Lee become the first curve model of colour to appear on its pages. Precious Lee is the epitome of a trailblazer. She is a fierce advocate for race and size diversity across fashion, television, and film. Lee continues to transform the industry through her work as a model, actress, writer, and activist.

Now having been in the industry for almost a decade, Lee is now walking the runways of labels the likes of Moschino and Versace. This comes after making appearances as a recurring model for the size-inclusive Christian Siriano from 2016-2020.

Most recently, Lee garnered national attention. She featured in luxury brand campaigns such as Miu Miu’s Wonderwoman Capsule and Marc Jacobs’ Perfect Fragrance. The model also partnered with the brand Fleur du Mal to bring size inclusivity to luxury lingerie.

To honour Black History Month in February of this year, Lee made an appearance on Good Morning America to discuss her Versace campaign, also featuring Hailey Beiber and Kendall Jenner.


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