The Fashion Awards 2019: “I was invited to the most prestigious night in fashion and I decided not to go, here's why”

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Billie Bhatia
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With an invite to the biggest fashion event of the year, plus-size model and influencer Felicity Hayward, explains why she decided to not attend. 

Much like the first Monday in May is the Met Gala, the first Monday is December is The Fashion Awards – undoubtedly the biggest night in fashion on home turf. Last night the most-recognised names in entertainment and fashion came together at London’s Royal Albert Hall to celebrate a night of industry achievement. Basically, it’s the Oscars but instead of celebrating movies we celebrate fashion.

The red-carpet was awash with celebrities such as Julia Roberts, Cate Blanchett, Rihanna, ASAP Rocky and Anna Wintour as well as countless industry insiders. There’s no way you would pass up the opportunity to go to such an event would you? To walk to red carpet in a show-stopping gown, to party with Rihanna and to toast the night to Naomi Campbell?

Well, that’s exactly what model and influencer Felicity Hayward did when she turned down her invitation to the evening because, like many other plus-size women in the industry, she wasn’t being catered to.

We spoke exclusively to the model and industry insider, who explains exactly why this was a stand for every woman who has ever felt left out. 

“Usually when I’m dressing for red-carpet events or parties, I can never find anything that is designer because they simply don’t cater to our sizes in the UK. I am a size 18-20 and the UK average is a size 16, so I am not much bigger than the UK average but finding designer pieces is incredibly hard, if not impossible. I have never had a stylist like many of the women walking the red carpet do – it would make life so much easier if I did – but I know the struggles that they will come across because I’ve seen it before.

Working as a model, I have realised stylists don’t really know where to get plus-size clothes or very rarely do they know. A lot of the time I am on modelling jobs I have to bring my own pieces to set. The brands who are shooting me say, ‘oh we just really want your style, we want you to look authentic so can you bring along a few pieces.’ What that actually means is they don’t know where to find plus pieces so I have to bring my own wardrobe when others would never have to do the same.

So when it comes to red carpets, I just source everything myself. I normally head straight to ASOS and River Island and I have also been lucky enough to borrow pieces from Marina Rinaldi – but let me tell you this, it’s not a fun experience. When I get invited to something like The Fashion Awards, I’m so honoured to be invited and I want to look my best. I want to show the industry and the world that curvier girls can look just as beautiful, fashionable and trendy as our peers, but it’s very hard because the clothing is so lacking.”

“Diversity and inclusivity on the red carpet is an issue. Most women who are curvier tend to avoid red carpet and similar events purely based on the fact that they can’t find something to wear. And isn’t that a sad fact? When you have the kudos to be somewhere but not the clothes?

This year was supposed to be my third year at The Fashion Awards. ASOS dressed me for the first year and River Island dressed me for the second. On both occasions I felt amazing; I had an outfit that fitted my body and shape, I felt glamorous, sexy and confident and I just didn’t feel the same this year.

The brand who had invited me to The Fashion Awards only had one option for me – an oversized piece that wrapped around the body. That was it. Imagine going into a shop and every rail was empty except for one lone piece hanging and that was your only option. It’s hardly inspiring is it?” 

“As plus-size women, we feel like we should just be grateful for what is given to us – like we should just feel lucky enough to be here that the rest doesn’t matter. I was first scouted as model in 2012 and plus-size models were so rare that I could count all of us on one hand.

Back then any opportunity I was given, I grabbed as fast as I possibly could because I was so grateful to be included in the conversation, and I think that mentally carried on with me for the years that followed. I know that feeling resonates with my peers and my followers – I need only look at the huge response I got on Instagram regarding my attendance at the awards – but actually we do deserve to be treated equally. Just because our body shapes are different numbers and different sizes doesn’t mean we are less equal than our peers.

I find it incredibly frustrating that brands want plus-size women to be present at these events but they simply won’t make the effort to cater to us. All of the other girls feel special with the amount of product and things that they can choose from and we are pushed to the sideline as an afterthought.

So I chose not to go. I was made to feel grateful for having one option and I already felt anxious about the event because I felt like I didn’t look good enough and in turn made me not feel worthy enough. Everyone else has got the most beautiful dresses and I’ve got one thing, and I feel like I’m not representing the community well. Plus, I don’t want to give that brand the press if they don’t even think of me as equal to my peers.” 

“When I am dressed for the red carpet in something I feel great in, I absolutely love it. I love walking the red carpet. When you have a good outfit – and I feel like anyone can relate to this – whether you are on a red carpet or whether you are walking around the supermarket, you feel confident and you feel empowered.

I go to these events not only because it’s my job, but because I feel like I need to show the world that plus-size women can look great and be equal to their counterparts – but how can you be equal if you aren’t treated in the same way. (Don’t get me wrong I felt panicked about cancelling because I thought am I missing out on an opportunity? This is The Fashion Awards!) But ultimately I am glad I stuck up for myself, for every woman who has struggled to find an outfit for an occasion because the options just aren’t there.

We can’t accept less than we deserve otherwise there will never be change.”

Amen to that.