Fashion’s Rising Star: Alva Claire

Ten years after being signed, South London’s Alva Claire is making moves towards becoming the UK’s next top model.

Credit: i-D

Alva Claire is one of the most enchanting presences on the catwalk or pages of magazines right now. And she’s been on a number lately, making appearances for Balmain, Versace and Savage x Fenty, in addition to campaign work for Calvin Klein. Life wasn’t always like this for Britain’s latest breakout, however.

Throughout her teens, South London’s Alva Claire worked in retail. A self-confessed fashion nerd, she has always been passionate about clothes, but not about modelling. 

She explains to Vogue,

“Everyone I saw in magazines looked the same… It was not exactly encouraging, but I was still obsessed.”

Claire was scouted several times throughout her teens but didn’t tick all of the necessary boxes. She says of her early experiences, “I’ve been rejected so many times. But it’s important that rejection is seen as a positive thing. It’s not a failure.”

Instead of waiting to be discovered, she took matters into her own hands. She tells Vogue,

“One day, I was reading an article about plus-sized models in a magazine and they had the details of an agency at the bottom of the page. Something in me just went, ‘I think I could do that.’ And from there, I was signed at the age of 18.”

Claire moved to New York from London when she felt she had “nothing left to lose”. She started to see how things were changing in New York, seeing new faces on Instagram. Girls being themselves.

Claire’s presence makes and strong and coherent statement about changing beauty standards in the world of high fashion. No longer stuck on the outside, the Fenty-approved model finally found her breakout success throughout the SS21 season.

Discussing her breakout season, she said,

“After all these years of modelling, it feels really good! I’m excited and inspired to keep moving forward, but I’m also hungry for this to not just be a moment. Consistency is key.”

Contemporary Woman

Credit: i-D

Alva Claire embodies the perfect model of the contemporary woman on the runway. In 2020, the Jamaican-British model made her second runway appearance at Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty SS21 show. She explains to Vogue,

“I was in Los Angeles for the Savage Fenty show and found out I landed the Versace job shortly after filming. It was a huge moment.”

Claire’s first Versace show marks a monumental moment in fashion history. Claire was about to become one of only three curve models to walk for the luxury label.

Versace’s SS21 embraces everything female, with a bombshell attitude which Donatella Versace has been advocating for decades. 

On the runway, Claire makes her entrance in a figure-hugging yellow dress, exuding confidence, strength and unapologetic sexiness. She is joined by fellow trailblazers Adut Akech, Mariacarla Boscono, Jill Kortleve and Precious Lee.

It’s easy to assume that casting plus-size models is about garnering attention or press. But at Versace, with Jill (Kortleve) and Precious (Lee), it’s not just about using one bigger model. It’s not just one show.

Discussing her first meeting with Donatella Versace, she tells Elle,

“She. Is. Amazing. She’s amazing. When I met her, I thought, You are exactly how I imagined. But more sweet, funny, self-aware than anyone could know. And consistent.”

This tremendous moment is one that extends to wider society, with ‘plus-size’ models helping us to embrace a more normalised, inclusive fashion flavour. This diversity in casting clearly demonstrates that there is space for a range of body types on the runway.

Changing Shapes

If we have learnt anything since 2020, it’s that it’s no longer acceptable to merely continue with “business as usual”. Designers are finally coming to terms with the messages they are sending the world with their sample-size casting choices.

Claire tells Vogue,

“Having diverse bodies should not be a gimmick and should be included in the casting of every single show. The assumption that women of different sizes wouldn’t want to wear luxury clothing is bizarre.”

Plus-size models becoming represented in new spaces provides a profoundly different experience to that of earlier decades. The changing body shapes on high fashion’s runways are beginning to release us from the confinement of a more narrow-minded society. Talking about her hopes for the future of the fashion industry, Claire tells Vogue,

“I hope to see more people from diverse backgrounds in positions they didn’t have before. It’s not just about size inclusion, it’s all of it. It starts from the top and then everything else follows suit. We are all responsible for this change, and I’m super positive that we are finally headed in the right direction.”

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