As New York Fashion Week kicks off, particularly for the casual fan, news of the Bella Hadids and Kendall Jenners often overshadows the up-and-comers who may be walking their first runways or having their breakout moments. More importantly, while there will always be more work to be done, many of these rising stars are changing our perceptions of what runway models look like.
In October, The Fashion Spot found that the spring 2019 shows were the most “racially diverse, size diverse, and gender-inclusive” ever. And modeling agencies like We Speak and New Pandemics are behind-the-scenes, working with brands to ensure they have access to a wider range of people to be represented on the runway. The demand for increased inclusivity and visibility is more than present, with New Pandemics founder Cody Chandler telling W last year that he hasn’t had to seek much publicity for his roster of models.
Some of the models featured below, like Nic Villarosa, just walked their first shows, while others, like Öykü Baştaş who was the first-ever Turkish model for Gucci, are poised for their breakout moments. Below, here are eight names to pay attention to this Fashion Month.
Nic Villarosa / @glisteningangel—Signed to New Pandemics, Nic Villarosa just walked his first show for Nihl, a new menswear label. The same week, he also walked for Palomo Spain, a show that, as Garage wrote, “bucked traditional runway archetypes of masculinity.” Villarosa also recently appeared in a campaign for workwear label Peels, a collaboration with New Pandemics that cast all LGBTQ+ models.
Öykü Baştaş / @oykubastas—Having just walked for Rodarte’s hometown show in Los Angeles, Baştaş has been a face to watch since she made her runway debut for Gucci’s Spring 2018 collection in Milan. According to i-D, she was discovered on Instagram after using the IMG Models scouting hashtag #weloveyourgenes, and she was the first-ever Turkish model to walk for Gucci.
Zoe Elise Bullock / @zeliseb—Bullock walked for Rachel Comey during NYFW and is a new face for New Pandemics. While perhaps new to the runway, she’s already had an accomplished career as an actor and filmmaker. Most recently, she was in a short titled Two or Three Women that followed two actors giving a Q&A, exploring it as a “reflexive and parabolic one act describing the impossibility of communication.”
Mecca Mozelle / @lovealittlee—Mozelle is a model and mental health advocate, having founded an organization called #IMWITHYOU, which offers educational resources on mental health and self-healing. Since signing to New Pandemics, she’s modeled for Tommy Ton’s first collection for women Deveaux.
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Sheilah Renniger / @sheilah_renniger—The newest face for We Speak, the New York agency that represents “drug-free, health-conscious models of all sizes,” Sheilah just walked the runway for Rachel Comey, opening the show wearing a brilliant burst of color—an orange sweater with a hot-pink paper-bag-waist skirt.
Arisleyda Dilone / @arisleyda—Arisleyda is one of We Speak’s most requested models and, on top of that, she’s an accomplished documentary filmmaker. In her agency bio, she says that “as an intersex person I make documentary work about femininity and gender in my Dominican-American family.”
Joe Apollonio / @masc_angst—Joe Apollonio gives off serious ‘80s heartthrob, River Phoenix vibes, and he just appeared in a campaign for Peels, a New York-based label reimagining the workwear uniform. He was also seen on an NYFW: M runway for Nihls. Follow him on Instagram for a few reasons, but mainly for videos of him skateboarding on sidewalks and rails and stairs all over New York City.
Yasmin Almokhamad / @yassayassayassa—Born in Russia and Syrian/Armenian, when she’s not modeling, Almokhamad is a visual artist who creates boldly colorful graphics. In her agency bio, she says, “I also think it is very important for young women to have powerful role models to look up too that are real people and NOT glamorized by false realities. Acceptance of myself, from my body size, queerness to my weirdness has not been easy; especially coming from my cultural background but that is where my powerful story lies.”