fashion

"I walked in a show at Melbourne Fashion Week. A woman came up to me afterwards in tears."

Not even watching every cycle of America’s Next Top Model in existence could have prepared me for my catwalk debut at this week’s Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival.

To start with, Tyra Banks never mentioned the sweating. Smizing (smiling with your eyes), yes. But sweating profusely from your face when a professional makeup artist has three minutes left to mop you up with setting powder? Not so much.

But I digress. If you’re confused as to why I – a 164 cm, size 22 woman who struggles to walk in anything but a low block heel – was asked to be a model in a fashion show, that’s OK. Until recently, I would’ve been too.

While Aussie runways have never been more diverse in ethnicity, size, age and abilities (bear in mind, we’re starting from zero), we haven’t yet caught up with international catwalks. It’s still extremely rare to see more than one or two plus size models in a high fashion show, and when we do, they’re a lovely but smaller than ‘average’ size 12-14. Age representation also has a long way to go – many shows now include gorgeous models over 50, but what about women in their 30s and 40s?

It’s for this reason Priceline Pharmacy decided 2020 was the year to put on their first ever beauty runway, the first runway at VAMFF to include non-models like myself. Wearing custom-designed black suits by Melbourne designer Effie Katts, the likes of radio and TV presenter Chrissie Swan, journalist and ABC chair Ita Buttrose, comedian Tanya Hennessy, DJ and podcaster Flex Mami, Masterchef’s Poh Ling Yeow, #mywrinklesaremystripes influencer and model Sarah Jane Adams and former Miss Universe Australia Olivia Rogers walked and danced their way down a catwalk in front of 500 people, with thousands more watching on social media.

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Here's Tanya Hennessy and Chrissie Swan looking delightful in their suits on the runway. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Isn't this joyous?! Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Such a powerful finale. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Here are all the women who made up Priceline's Beauty Runway. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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To quote beauty influencer Gemma Watts, it was the best runway she'd seen in her 10 years of covering VAMFF. And even better, half of all ticket sales will be donated to the Priceline Sisterhood Foundation, which raises money for five Australian charities that help women and their families.

Walking down that runway to Lizzo and Destiny's Child was daunting, exhilarating, humbling and fortifying. And sweaty. But it really wasn’t until after the lights went down and everyone had left that I realised just how bloody incredible that experience was, and what it really meant to me and women who have never seen themselves represented in a fashion show before.

Wearing the first suit I’ve ever owned, with a custom hair and makeup look designed specifically for me by award-winning hair artist Sarah Laidlaw, I’ve never felt hotter. But I can’t honestly say preparing for this show hasn’t been uncomfortable at times. Actually, it was deeply uncomfortable, even though I knew it was for a greater good of representation bigger than my own, private feelings.

Being fitted for tapered pants and a suit jacket - two items of clothing I’ve never really been able to wear before because - was an extremely vulnerable experience. During my second fitting prior to the show, Effie asked me if I loved my suit - a sleek, black double-breasted tuxedo jacket with a silk lapel, and slim fit pants with a very farshun slit up the front. At the time, I couldn't muster any words to explain how I was feeling because I was busy trying really hard to make baby tears reverse back into my eyeballs. I was so convinced I’d look sh*t in the suit no matter what, that even though it was made to measure and fit my body, it still wouldn't. I'm also sure I wasn't the only person in the show that felt something similar.

But it did fit and I didn't look sh*t. I looked incredible. Being among 22 other smoking hot and successful of all ages, sizes and backgrounds helped me to almost believe it in my heart, even if it was just for one day. And when I hobbled outside to chat with people after the show in my pitifully low heels that somehow still managed to tear up my feet, I had conversations with several women that made me realise just how much us pushing through our uncomfortable-ness impacted them.

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Not even watching every cycle of America’s Next Top Model in existence could’ve prepared me for my catwalk debut in the @pricelineau Beauty Runway at VAMFF today. It really wasn’t until after it all finished that I realised just how bloody incredible that experience was, and what it really meant to me and women who have never seen themselves represented in a fashion show before. Wearing the first suit I’ve ever owned designed by @effiekats with a custom hair and makeup look designed specifically for me by @sarahlaidlaw, I’ve never felt hotter. But I can’t honestly say preparing for this show hasn’t been uncomfortable at times. Being fitted for pants and a suit jacket - two items of clothing I’ve never really been able to wear before - was an extremely vulnerable experience. When Effie asked me if I loved my suit during my second fitting prior to the show, I couldn’t really muster any words because I was trying really hard to make baby tears reverse back into my eyeballs. I was so convinced I’d look shit in the suit no matter what. But I didn’t. I looked ???????????? and I really hope seeing me walk in this show can convince someone else they too can wear a motherfucking boss suit if they want to. Thank you Effie for making a suit to fit me just as I am, and to Priceline and @mamamiaaus for including me in the show. What a time to be alive. #pricelinexyou

A post shared by Amy Clark (@theamyclark) on

One woman, in particular, attempted to tell me, holding back tears, how emotional she felt watching the show. Sometimes, it's really hard to articulate how much things mean to us, and even though she struggled to put her words together, I knew what she meant. What she wanted to say was: You just don't see women above a size 12 and over 30 on runways in Australia, if at all. And to see a glorious group of them, dressed immaculately in designer clothing with beautiful hair and makeup, was really important and impacted her more than it should because it's just not the norm.

Another messaged me on Instagram, saying: "F*ck this is awesome, I'm actually in tears, isn't that sad? That I'm crying with joy to see a real, gorgeous woman walk a catwalk. It's heaven, and we're starved for it."

All of this tells us something we already know to be true. That women want to see themselves on runways, in advertising and on social media. And more than that, they have MONEY TO SPEND and will do so with brands that show them what an item of clothing could look like on them.

Above moving the needle an inch closer to representation across the board, I really hope seeing me and so many other legendary women dance, strut and nervously walk down a catwalk can convince someone else they too can wear a motherf*cking boss suit if they want to.

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Australian fashion industry, take note: We deserve this. We demand it.

You can scroll through all the brilliant images from the Priceline Beauty Runway at VAMFF below. Here's the full list of women who walked in the show: Chrissie Swan, Tanya Hennessy,  Sarah Jane Adams, Sarah Davidson, Natalie Ive,  Prudence Melom,  Tully Humphrey, Keira Rumble, Kate Collins, Natasha Heal, Lillian Ahenkan AKA Flex Mami, Isabel Huntington, Poh Ling Yeow, AJ Clementine, Hannah Staas, Emmylou MacCarthy, Phuong Nyugen, Brooke Meredith, Karen From Finance, Kirsten Prins, Ita Buttrose AC OBE, Olivia Rogers and Amy Clark.

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Ita Buttrose. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Ita Buttrose. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Lillian Ahenkan AKA Flex Mami. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Lillian Ahenkan AKA Flex Mami. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Natasha Heal. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Natasha Heal. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Kate Collins. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Kate Collins. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Keira Rumble. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Keira Rumble. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Tully Humphrey. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Tully Humphrey. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Isabel Huntington. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Isabel Huntington. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Poh Ling Yeow. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Poh Ling Yeow. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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AJ Clementine. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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AJ Clementine. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Hannah Staas. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Hannah Staas. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Emmylou MacCarthy. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Emmylou MacCarthy. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Phuong Nyugen. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Phuong Nyugen. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Brooke Meredith. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Brooke Meredith. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Karen From Finance. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Karen From Finance. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Kirsten Prins. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Kirsten Prins. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Amy Clark. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Amy Clark. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Sarah Davidson. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Sarah Davidson. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Natalie Ive. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Natalie Ive. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Prudence Melom. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
Prudence Melom. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Sarah Jane Adams. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Sarah Jane Adams. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Olivia Rogers. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Olivia Rogers. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Chrissie Swan, Tanya Hennessy. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Tanya Hennessy. Image: Supplied/Priceline.
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Sarah Jane Adams, Ita Buttrose and Olivia Rogers. Image: Supplied/Priceline.

How does this fashion show make you feel? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

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