paloma elsesser ushered in a new era of body positivity in the fashion world this year
The i-D cover star shares her hopes and dreams for 2019, and tells us why the fashion industry is in desperate need of modernisation.
Photography Inez and Vinoodh. Styling Alastair McKimm.
Traditionally speaking, fashion has always been a one-size-fits-all kind of affair. Paloma Elsesser doesn’t have time for that in 2018 (or in any other year, now you mention it). The body-positive activist, model and i-D cover star doesn’t see her body as radical, but the change she’s ushering into the industry certainly is.
How would you describe your 2018?
Frankly, fucking insane. It’s been a complete whirlwind. I made some huge jumps and transitions — switched agencies, went into power mode with work, set some real goals and worked at chipping away at them. I was on lots of planes, but I made a lot of strides.
Describe some of your stand out moments, both personally and professionally.
Obviously, starting the year with an i-D cover was monumental. The covers that followed and just a general uptick in the quality of work I was doing. I even shot a movie this year with some of my favourite directors. All of these experiences forged a new confidence in me because one, seeing your dreams actualised is insane and two, because I proved my capabilities. On a personal level, I really got my finances in order. I set financial goals but also had freedoms, not being afraid of money has been incredibly liberating. This shift was important to me be because money and the lack of organisation around it is something we don't talk very fluidly in fashion. Many of us didn’t come from any money so we never learned how to be cautious or even wise with it, I was spending like a rapper my first two years. It was fiercely important for me to know how my money worked and what I actually wanted to do with it.
What were your new year's resolutions for 2018, why did you make them and did you stick to them?
My 2018 resolutions were mainly about expanding my comforts. My 2018 resolution was a willingness to be uncomfortable. I wanted to challenge myself in new way and try not to be dictated by fear or judgment, both were very hard but very helpful in stepping into my capabilities.
In January 2018 I was feeling...
Overwhelmed, but understood.
What changes have you seen in the industry this year?
I’ve seen a swift and determined ushering in of new black, brown, and/or queer talent. It’s been exciting to watch Ib Kamara get the attention and accolades he deserves, to see a new benchmark of creativity, and identity in the industry.
What changes would you like the fashion industry to make going forward?
Less fearfulness, more empathy. I want the industry to understand my body not as a stress, or a commodity. My body is my body and it is reflective of the experience and alienation many people feel today. My body is not radical, it is honest. My body won’t disrupt your fashion story, it will give it dimension, because time and time again we learn that all types of people love clothes and want to see themselves in them.
Why do you think these changes need to happen?
Identity is nuanced. We are not meant to be caged or to be silenced. The fashion industry has power to reshape the identities and narratives of so many lives and I feel that there is a greater responsibility to highlight those differences, in a non gimmicky, less frantic way.
Why do you feel a responsibility as a model to try and make these happen?
Because that has always been my goal: shift the narrative of what a plus size model can be. Although, I benefit from immense privilege in that (slim face, eurocentric features, general “pretty privilege’ — to quote Janet Mock) I hoped to introduce a varied identity. That fat girls can be chic, strange, coy, and powerful — all at the same time.
What has made you feel most proud this year and why?
Knowing my grandmother is so profoundly proud of me.
In November/ December 2018 I'm feeling...
Excited, engaged, and overwhelmingly grateful.
This year, I have really enjoyed...
Being able to say no!
The people who've made my year are...
Madeline Poole, Niki Takesh, My boyfriend, my family, Oprah.
What are your hopes for fashion for 2019?
A willingness to be uncomfortable!