For those who aren't familiar with it, VFiles.com is a fashion portal which is best known for its irreverent online video series called Model Files,
hosted by casting director Preston Chaunsumlit.
As the site itself describes the show,
Model Files unravels the fashion industry from an insider's perspective. Part reality TV and part mock-umentary...
The most recent installment of the program (posted below) is a special on plus-size models, with the conceit being that the host is casting models for an editorial in a German magazine called Top Modisch
(which likely doesn't exist and was merely imagined for the show).
In the video, Mr. Chaunsumlit announces that his intention is
to bring plus-size models to high fashion. These girls are the last frontier in under-represented models.
All very noble. However, he runs into familiar stumbling blocks from the notoriously curve-o-phobic fashion industry right from the beginning, in his calls to various agencies, such as when he has to inquire about one model,
I'm just calling to make sure that she hasn't returned to minus-size modelling.
(a fate that is all too common among faux-plus models). And bravo to Mr. Chaunsumlit for using the phrase "minus size" to describe the standard, androgynous, size-0s who populate the fashion establishment.
Mr. Chaunsumlit earns an extra dollop of goodwill when he tells one agent,
No, a size 6 is not plus-size.
(Neither is anything less than a size 14, of course.)
Even better, he poses an agent this question about another model:
Is she visibly plus-size?
Because that is the key: that phrase, that idea, that the model must look
full-figured, must be visibly plus-size,
or else there is simply no point. Only by celebrating the beauty of models who genuinely appear
full-figured will any turn in fashion-industry thinking ever happen.
And Mr. Chaunsumlit seems to understand this, because as the video shows him walking along the lineup of models who have turned out for this casting, he passes by a number of well-known girls without comment, until he is arrested by the sight of none other than . . .
Sophie's beauty stops him dead in his tracks, and he asks, "Sophie S.?"
The man has good aesthetic sense.
However, he does interview each of the other girls in turn. One fine moment involves him asking "Is this what they consider plus-size?" of a rather less-than-full-figured-looking girl, whose only response is, "Am I not plus the size of most models booked?" (meaning the waifs), to which the casting director points out, "Any
size is plus the size of most models booked."
A vital point, that. Just being bigger than an anorexic androgyne does not
make a model plus-size.
The most appalling moment in the video comes when a model exhibits the padding
that she sometimes wears to castings--a disgusting practice that should be abolished once and forever. If a model needs to resort to such artifice, she is not plus-size
and should not be booking jobs in plus-size fashion, which should instead go to authentically curvy girls.
If a model is using padding, she needs to gain weight--plain and simple.
In another moment that earns him our respect, Mr. Chaunsumlit says of one model that he appreciates her, but that "she's a little small." It's high time for full-figured girls to be rejected if they're not curvy enough, and for a visibly plus-size appearance to be mandatory for getting booked.
For her interview, Sophie teases her golden tresses in her signature, captivating fashion.
Needless to say, she gets the job.
However, the irony of the shoot has just begun. Mr. Chaunsumlit confidently asserts that with this editorial,
Essentially, I'm saving them from lingerie shoots and Lane Bryant catalogues.
But there's a reason why many plus-size models likely prefer commercial work to editorial, and the host discovers it when, to his horror, the stylist comes to the shoot with . . . sample sizes.
As in, size-0 samples.
For a plus-size-model shoot.
So in the end, is the casting director "saving" these girls . . . from shoots where the clothes actually fit?
Now, remember the "mock-umentary" description of this Model Files
program. It is undoubtedly the case that the incident was staged, in order to create a bit of supposedly entertaining television. But sadly, it is also entirely possible to believe that a fashion-industry stylist would,
as she absurdly claims, take "plus-size" to mean "size 4" (!), and passive-aggressively come with size-0 samples.
Goodness knows that we have heard of enough cases where full-figured models are treated in this fashion (even at plus-size shoots, let alone for editorial layouts) to believe that the mix-up could have been a straightforward example of fashion-industry thin-supremacism in action, were it not for the mock-umentary nature of this program.
Regardless, the result is a rather ad-hoc attempt to turn the shoot into an accessories story, but the significant point is that through it all, Sophie looks utterly gorgeous. As the host says of his talents,
The girls are killing it. They're plush, full-figured, Rubenesque.
The final scene shows him walking down the New York street with a group of models at his side, Sophie in the most immediate proximity, in a deliberate revamp of a shot at the beginning of the video showing a similar scene, but with minus-size girls.
Mr. Chaunsumlit claims that after the experience, he "can't go back" and intends to help plus-size models advance further in the fashion industry. Let us hope that his enthusiasm doesn't wane. By choosing Sophie over other models, he affirms a taste for timeless feminine beauty and for the genuinely full-figured female form.
(Mind you, this supposed enthusiasm on his part could also simply be staged for the "mock-umentary" nature of his show, and this could be VFiles' one and only venture into plus-size territory.)
Regardless, let us hope that he works with Miss Sheppard again--but either with a different stylist, or gives the same stylist a chance at redemption (even mock, staged redemption) by requiring that this time, she bring fashions that fit the model, not expecting the model to fit the fashions.
We look forward to seeing the images from the shoot, if ever (and wherever) they might turn up. but undoubtedly (as is so often the case) the video footage will yield the most captivating visuals.