Last season at London Fashion Week, Canadian knitwear designer Mark Fast got a lot of flak for sending size 12 and 14 models down his runway. Stylists quit in a huff and he wound up having to change his whole team in order to stick to his vision. Size 12 is smaller than average and many expressed disdain that it would even be considered plus-size at all.

The stark contrast between size-zero and size-two models and the majority of female consumers who buy the clothes can no longer be ignored. Thankfully, a shift is occurring in the fashion industry; more and more, designers are responding to consumer demand by increasing their use of larger-sized models. Is it a desire to do good, or a business decision? After all, it’s not good for sales to alienate your clients.

Joe Fresh loves to pay a well-known international model top dollar to walk down its runway at Toronto Fashion Week, drawing attention and anticipation. This season they chose Crystal Renn, a plus-sized model (only a 12, but still) who used to wear a size zero before becoming fed up with the exhaustion and hair loss that comes with starving yourself. At the young age of 23, she now embraces her curves and accepts her natural size, continuing to work steadily as a model for international runways and magazines. Her new book, Hungry, chronicles her battle back from an unnatural size to one that is more true to her.

The Ben Barry agency provided two models for Sunny Fong’s VAWK show at AGO during Fashion Week: one aged 55 and a size 14; the other aged 23 and a size 12. “I think there is a movement within the international fashion industry toward diversity on the runway and on magazine covers – and Toronto fashion brands are leading the way,” said Barry, a model agent who promotes diversity among his roster of talent.

The runway at Toronto Fashion Week also featured the designs of Jessica Biffi, the Project Runway Canada contestant from Season 2 who premiered her collection two seasons ago. Although the designer herself is plus-size, her designs were made for smaller women. This season, however, she decided to showcase collections she designed for Addition Elle and MXM, womenswear retailers specializing in sizes 14 and larger. The lines were launched the same day as the show and sales surpassed all expectations. Biffi obviously filled a gap; larger-sized women also want access to well-priced designer clothing with the cache of a famous brand label attached. Many sought-after brands, such as BCBG, only make clothes as large as size 12.

High-fashion need not be restricted to the under-12 set and designers are finally responding to the desires of all women. Whether the reason for the positive change is consumer demand or designer conscience, we like seeing women of all shapes and sizes. Because that’s how we are.

Read more about the positive changes on the runway at Laura’s Blog.

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