Philly Fashion Week models the city’s diversity

New York. Paris. London. Milan.

These are the undisputed fashion capitals of the world, and their respective fashion weeks have an indelible influence on style.

But Philadelphia Fashion Week sets itself apart from those long-running staples through its total embrace of diversity and inclusion.

Behind the runway, models sprint for quick changes, stylists touch up hair, and designers make last-minute adjustments to their lineups. The whole scene is a reflection of the city’s diversity.

Mah-Jin Wong, a designer and contestant from “Project Runway” season 15, agonizes over his collection’s lineup at Philadelphia Fashion Week, held at Dilworth Park. (Kriston Jae Bethel for WHYY)

Here, people of color are the norm, rather than a rarity. Body types run the gamut of what you’d expect to see as you walk down the street. People of all ages can find a role in the show.

“It’s great they give a lot of women of color opportunities,” said Rita Randolph, who works as the backstage lead assistant. “A lot of women of color are disappointed [at other shows], because they’ll pick just one.”

Even the clothes on display reflect that spirit of diversity, perhaps none more so than modest-wear line Hijabified.

Models step up to the runway at Philadelphia Fashion Week, held at Dilworth Park. (Kriston Jae Bethel for WHYY)

“I want people to be confident, not feel that they don’t exist because they’re covered,” said Niddarah Winters, Hijabified’s North Philadelphia designer. “You can be covered and still be cute. Cute. Covered. Modest.”

What is perhaps a result of this inclusion is an expanded audience. High fashion becomes accessible to everyone who wants to spot what could be the next big trend. The continued growth of Philadelphia Fashion Week demonstrates that the industry can expand beyond tokenism — and be successful while doing so.

A Philadelphia Fashion Week attendee poses for her own photo shoot following Friday night’s runway show, held at Dilworth Park. (Kriston Jae Bethel for WHYY)

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