Nelke Roose

30 Sep
Fashion

Meet the 3 Plus-Size Models Who Made Versace History

For the first time in Versace’s history, three plus-size models got to walk the runway for the Italian luxury brand. The occasion? Versace’s live-streamed Milan Fashion Week runway to present the Spring-Summer 2021 Collection, last Friday, 26 September.

With the new collection, designer Donatella Versace wants to take us away from the scary reality to an optimistic, underwater city, Versacepolis, where strong and confident people live. The clothes are meant to bring us joy. In a statement beneath the livestream on YouTube, Donatella Versace shared: “I wanted to create something disruptive, something that could be in tune with what has changed inside all of us. To me, that meant dreaming of a new world. A world made of popping colors and fantastic creatures and a world in which we can all coexist peacefully.”

Now, you understand why Jill Kortleve, Precious Lee, and Alva Claire, the three curvy models, wore bold, exuberant colors to exude a future of optimism and hope. So, let’s get to know these three faces.

Jill Kortleve's look on the runway.

1. Jill Kortleve

The Dutch model Jill Kortleve describes herself on Instagram as a small-town girl, but with 173K followers on Instagram and an impressively growing resume, this model should be watched out for!

Kortleve walked her first big runway in October 2018, for none other than British designer Alexander McQueen. A year later, she became the face for a campaign of Fenty Beauty, Rihanna’s cosmetics brand. That same year, in September, Kortleve walked for the famous French brand Mugler, together with models like Bella Hadid.

And at the start of 2020, Kortleve made her debut at a runway show for French label Jacquemus, something most models dream of. On top of that, she became Chanel’s first plus-size model. Even with the coronavirus canceling a lot of plans, Kortleve was booked again for an online runway show by Jacquemus in July 2020.

Despite her previous success, walking for Versace was still a huge milestone for Kortleve. “This is such a historical moment and I can’t believe it actually happened. I’m still shaking,” she wrote on her Instagram. “It’s so unbelievable to work for brands I always dreamt of working for. I hope that we open the doors for a new generation with the same dreams but who never saw themselves in the magazines or the commercials.

2. Precious Lee

The American model Precious Lee got the chance to shine on Versace’s runway. An experience she’s extremely grateful for, as she shared on Instagram. In one of her posts about doing this runway, she addressed Donatella Versace: “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for raising the bar. I know how much this means and I will always cherish it. Not one little black girl can say they can’t because we can, we always could.”

And Lee herself proved that she can. After graduation, Precious Lee joined a model agency in New York but had to change her name to ‘Victoria’, as her real name ‘Precious Lee’ sounded too much like a stage name for the agency. Eventually, after years of feeling unhappy, Precious Lee changed agencies in 2015 and started claiming her true identity. And that’s when her career took off.

In 2016, she was the first African-American plus-size model to be featured in the annual Swimsuit Issue of the American magazine Sports Illustrated. That same year, she took part in the viral campaigns #ImNoAngel, #PlusIsEqual, and #ThisBody, by Lane Bryant, an American retail store for plus-size clothing. Since then, Precious Lee has been featured in magazines like Allure and even was the cover girl for Vogue Italia. She was the face for the latest Miu Miu campaign, an Italian high fashion brand under Prada.

Precious Lee rocking a bright, neon-colored outfit.

3. Alva Claire

Alva Claire’s passion is putting a different image out there in the world and that’s definitely what she did at Versace’s runway. The model grew up in South London, her mother comes from the USA and her father from Jamaica. At the age of twelve, she modeled for the first time, but it didn’t lead to anything. Five years later, she read about plus-size modeling and tried it out again. She got signed to a small agency in London, but it was a rough path to success. She almost quit, until she modeled for ASOS magazine. There, she sensed that the industry was changing and wanted to be part of it, so she became a full-time model.

Previously, Claire worked for different brands like H&M and appeared on Rihanna’s lingerie Savage x Fenty show. After Versace’s runway, she posted online: “I’m so emotional writing this, to walk for the iconic Versace has always been a huge dream of mine!! I am so proud of @preciousleexoxo @jilla.tequila and myself we made history with this and I will never forget how I feel right now! This moment is for all of us!!! I’m full of love!”

Alva Claire at Versace's Spring/Summer 2021 runway.

Photos by Versace

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