Plus-Size Model James Corbin on the Power of Walking in Fashion Week

The fashion-month runways have historically shunned size inclusivity, but the tide is changing slowly but surely. Now, models of all different body shapes appear on the catwalks. Progress in the menswear space, however, has been even more stagnant: This season has seen few plus-size male models sport the new collections. But during London Fashion Week earlier this month, S.S. Daley’s spring 2023 show featured several plus-size male models—one of whom was James Corbin, a 23-year-old London-based model on the rise. Below, Corbin sounds off on the power that came with him walking Fashion Week and where he hopes fashion can head in the future.

My family’s Caribbean and Kenyan, but I’m born and bred in London. I grew up in Brixton, around Caribbean and Jamaican people. I never thought of fashion as something that I could be a part of. I’ve always been a big kid, so I thought I had no business thinking about anything in front of the camera.

In the middle of lockdown, I got a DM from a casting director to do a shoot for Vogue Italia. I didn’t think it was real. I was like, I don’t look like a model. It was a shoot about happiness, but I remember having imposter syndrome. We got the shot within a minute. When it came out, it had such a big reaction—it ignited a feeling that I’d never felt before. I felt useful. I realized that I have a purpose here. It wasn’t just plus-size people I was getting messages from: It was men and women who’ve also had issues with how they see their bodies.

That shoot led to me reaching out to modeling agencies, and I was just honest. I said, “I want to see a change within fashion.” I got through to the director of the agency Supa, and I got signed. I needed somebody who was willing to be an industry groundbreaker, a trailblazer. I immediately started working with Tim Walker and Charles Jeffrey Loverboy; I got the front cover for Perfect magazine within the first few months. I was so grateful, but I was learning along the way that brands still aren’t making clothes for me in my size. When I started asking when I could do runway, I was told, “You can’t because there are no clothes being made for you.”