The swimwear industry continues to make strides toward inclusivity, thanks in part to the woman behind Paraiso Miami Beach Swim Week, Natalija Dedic Stojanovic.
The creative director of swim week's major events tells Yahoo Life that the showcase of the best swimwear collections has evolved into a "festival" celebrating the summer lifestyle and all of the beauty that comes with it. It's also grown to encompass a mission that puts consumers at the forefront and makes it a priority to represent the vast diversity as seen in the real world.
"We really want to show how people look in real life on the runway, especially with swimwear. We all have different bodies, we're all a different size, so inclusivity is really important," Stojanovic explains. "It's just how it's supposed to be."
Throughout the last few years, efforts to become more inclusive have been clear as participating brands like Sports Illustrated Swimsuit have made history with the models represented on its runway. Kittenish, Sinesia Karol, Maaji, Luli Fama, Cupshe and BFyne were among the brands that embraced that evolution this year.
Still, Stojanovic admits that it's a slow-going process as the industry continues to unlearn a lot of old problematic practices. She even recalls her own experience as a young girl who was impacted by the visuals she saw in the media.
"When I was a teenager, I was looking at magazines and runway shows and it was always like a zero to two size model on the runway and it was always so frustrating. Going on a diet because you're wanting to look like them and you just kind of live constantly in that headspace," she explains. "It was always that beautiful skinny woman on the cover of the magazine, but we live in a different world now."
Her own dissatisfaction with the exclusive beauty standards she grew up with is part of her motivation to create a more inviting experience for those coming to South Beach or experiencing the events from afar. Having a teenage daughter has also contributed to the way that Stojanovic approaches her work.
"I always think about what is it that I want her to see on that runway, what message she will get and how I want her to see the world," Stojanovic says. "I'm fortunate to have this whole platform to create that message."
While Stojanovic doesn't have control over each individual runway show, she explains the process of bringing brands in and reminding them of the values of Paraiso Miami Beach. "We want to show on the runway how people look in real life and you know, for everyone to feel comfortable the next day when they go to the beach and wear their swimwear," she says is the bottom line.
By partnering with Models of Color Matter, an advocacy group focused on the representation of Black and brown models, the mission of inclusivity and diversity is also positively impacting the environment backstage. This is an important part to Stojanovic's 360-degree approach.
"The problem was backstage with the execution of hair and makeup looks," she explains. "So we're focusing on making sure that backstage is a really welcoming environment for all of the models, no matter the color, and for our hair and makeup teams to be ready for all these different hair types."
The growth of Paraiso Miami Beach has been "organic," Stojanovic says, as is the viral media coverage of the event that has seen a representation of mothers, trans models and those with disabilities on the runway. As the conversation about the event and its positive efforts grow, she hopes that the push toward inclusivity does as well.
"Everything that we do on our runways, it's really impacting runways worldwide," she says. "It's just kind of like a new sort of a fashion week. There is nothing like this out there."
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