NYFW: Laverne Cox Stars in First Fashion Show for Size-Inclusive E-tailer 11 Honoré

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Hollywood stylist Elizabeth Stewart, who styled the fall 2019 presentation, says her role was to create a show that felt “the same regardless of anyone’s size: glamorous, elegant and fresh.”

It’s fitting that the first look out at Wednesday night’s 11 Honoré show was a side-draped tuxedo gown in white by Christian Siriano. Less than 24 hours before, Democratic women in Congress created a compelling visual: A sea of solidarity in white at Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech.

With its roots in the early-20th century British suffrage movement, and more recent memories of Hillary Rodham Clinton wearing a white Ralph Lauren suit when accepting the 2016 Democratic nomination, all-white as a sartorial choice has become the ultimate power statement, this decade’s version of I-am-woman-hear-me-roar. And when it comes to high-end fashion, plus-size women are demanding to be heard as well.

“It was the right time,” said Patrick Herning, founder and CEO of the Los Angeles-based multi-brand luxury e-tailer that specializes in sizes 10 to 20 and up. “We’re approaching two years of being in business, and our job is to put a spotlight on this conversation. There’s no better place for us to do that than New York Fashion Week.”

It is widely publicized that about 68 percent of American women wear a size 14 or larger. 

Herning enlisted Hollywood stylist Elizabeth Stewart (a champion of size-inclusivity, whose clients include Viola Davis, Julia Roberts, Cate Blanchett and Gal Gadot) to style the retailer’s debut runway presentation for fall 2019 at New York’s Spring Studios. Calling Herning “a game-changer,” Stewart told The Hollywood Reporter that her role was to create a show that felt “the same regardless of anyone’s size: glamorous, elegant and fresh.”

Herning added: “I’ve known Elizabeth for about 10 years. She understands this customer super well. She believes in empowering all women, regardless of size, and I just really trust her.”

Positioned as a see-now, buy-now event – a booklet on each seat featured sketches of every design, with handy QR codes to take you straight to that style on the 11 Honoré site – the show featured more than three-dozen looks from designers that included Jason Wu, Roland Mouret, Zac Posen and Tanya Taylor. Adam Lippes and Yigal Azrouel were on the front row to watch their designs walk the runway.

“Anything that helps to empower women is an amazing feeling,” Azrouel said after the show. “These were all beautiful women on this runway; if you’re offered the chance to do something that feels high-fashion regardless of size, why not?” Stewart agreed: “Fashion lovers come in all shapes and sizes, and it is important that the industry recognizes and supports that."

Tess Holliday is a plus-size model who has appeared in Nylon, Vogue Italia and Marie Claire’s U.K. edition; on the front row Wednesday, she wore 11 Honoré pieces by Mara Hoffman and Sally LaPointe. “No one is doing what Patrick is doing, and he’s doing it because he genuinely cares that plus-size women don’t have accessibility to fashion,” she said. “He took his relationships with designers and turned it into a way to help other people.”

Indeed, faced with the challenge of red-carpet dressing when designers can’t or won’t craft a custom dress, plus-size actresses have been turning to 11 Honoré for assistance. Another Stewart client, Rebel Wilson, recently wore a look from the site to October’s Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic, while Melissa McCarthy donned Reem Acra’s star-embellished purple georgette caftan gown ($3,950) to January’s Golden Globes. At Monday’s 91st Oscars Nominees Luncheon, McCarthy wore Jonathan Simkhai’s $545 navy jacquard V-neck ruffle dress, an 11 Honoré exclusive.

Several looks on the runway felt tailor-made for upcoming red carpets, from that $5,400 white Siriano tuxedo gown to a $4,595 one-shoulder black Chantilly lace gown by Monique Lhuillier. At the other end of the price spectrum, Badgley Mischka’s scuba-style gown with a dramatic ruffle on the deep-V neckline and high slit was a veritable bargain at $595.

For the finale, Herning had one more surprise in store: Laverne Cox, who worked the runway in a custom Zac Posen tulle gown that’s not yet on the site but is available for pre-order. “That was arguably one of the most important moments of my career,” Herning said of the trans actress’ appearance at the show’s end. “I’m a gay founder, I support the LGBTQ community, and all women are incredibly important to me. To see such a strong, beautiful, powerful woman closing the show--I couldn’t ask for anything more.”