Letter from John Bartlett, Director of the Marist Fashion Program
Thank you, Marist Circle, for the opportunity to respond to the opinion piece entitled “Marist Fashion: Stop Using Only Tall and Skinny Models.” As Director of Marist’s Fashion Program, I was disheartened to see an opinion piece that does not fairly represent the Program’s commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. It is a work in progress, as with all important social justice issues, and perspectives from students are welcome. But I do feel a need to clarify the record and point out the article’s factual inaccuracies.
It is my understanding that Kaylin Moss, the author of the piece, agreed to be the cover star of Measure knowing she was not going to receive financial compensation. There is documentation of the interaction between the editorial staff of Measure and Ms. Moss stating that the cover personality was not to be compensated financially but would receive a large amount of exposure, a written feature and a series of photographs dressed in the work of the Senior designers. Ms. Moss replied that while she would have liked payment, she was nonetheless “honored” to be chosen as the featured student.
The other students modeling in the Measure issue that features Ms. Moss on the cover were indeed fairly paid as student workers as are the student models who walk the runway for the Silver Needle Runway show. Ms. Moss was not considered a model; she was considered the student star of the issue and a representation and embodiment of the caliber of the Marist student body.
Ms. Moss questions the use of “traditional sample size models” in her opinion piece. Marist design students work on many body types, and we bring in professional fit models from New York City that range from sizes 4 to 14 and beyond. This year’s Silver Needle Runway features plus-size collections, collections with only African American models, and trans models.
I respectfully disagree with the writer’s perspective that the students do not have the opportunity to explore all types of bodies. The Fashion Program encourages students to always consider inclusion as part of today’s fashion and social landscape, and this is reflected in the work of not only the senior designers, but other grades and concentrations as well. As an example, a junior design student is creating a line that adapts for those in wheelchairs, and numerous merchandising students have developed projects in adaptable clothing. One group of senior merchandising students has launched a Marist Club for Runway of Dreams this year, whose mission is to create adaptive runway student shows.
Ms. Moss limits her critique to last year’s SNR. I invite her to review the work of this year’s senior collections. I believe she will be impressed with the diversity of models and designs presented. The Fashion Program encourages merchandising and design students to broaden their concepts of fashion to be as inclusive as possible and not, as Ms. Moss claims, to reinforce the “cycle of maintaining Eurocentric beauty.” I have been moved by the student work this year. It is a true reflection of an expanding idea of beauty and inclusivity and, while there are certainly blind spots and areas that can improve, I feel strongly that the Fashion Program is addressing and supporting diversity, inclusion and an overall sense of belonging. I also invite Ms. Moss to visit the Steel Plant and witness the revolution that is quietly occurring.