Models of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities participate on the runway for Project Diversity, which took place at the School of Interior Design on March 24. PHOTO: OLIVIA MCLEOD

Skirting tradition and embracing diversity

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By Isabelle Docto

Project Diversity is no ordinary fashion show.

Instead of conforming to the fashion industry’s monotony, fourth-year fashion communication student Kirthiga Rajanayagam said she decided to “disrupt the norm” by creating a runway that welcomes all shapes, sizes and ethnicities.

“I see shows with the same nameless, faceless type of girl or guy and I wanted to see something different that brought about change and more innovation,” she said.

Rajanayagam said she focused less on the clothes and more on who was wearing them, making sure to choose models who challenged traditional beauty ideals. She also made sure the clothes they wore represented their personalities.

“I wanted to showcase the models in their most confident look and for each person, it’s something different,” she said. “I wanted to work one-on-one with each model and make them feel as good as they want to.”

Ophilia Alleyne, a positive body image advocate and full-figure model who walked the show, said she appreciated how Project Diversity allowed her to express her take on fashion.

“Often when you do shows, the vision is already set and you don’t get to go in there and put in your own accent,” she said. “That’s one thing I love about Kirthiga’s style is that she let me put in a piece of me.”

Models dressed in both formal and casual wear and flashed smiles at the audience and cameras. Onlookers cheered when they finished their walk.

Amandeep Singh Gill, an international student at Centennial College and a model for the show, said he was proud to represent his Sikh culture and walk alongside people from a variety of other ethnicities.

“When I was doing rehearsals with the other participants it was great,” he said. “It felt like I was walking alongside the entire world.”

While there has been more representation of diversity in mainstream media and the fashion industry has shown movement towards a more diverse portrayal of beauty, Rajanayagam said she hopes it won’t just be a trend or a fad.

“I really hope that people hear the sentiment and the thoughts that these models convey to the audience,” she said. “There’s a reason why no two people are alike — because life would be freaking boring otherwise.”

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