Fashion Rule Breakers: A Plus 2016 Year In Review

Some fashion rules were made to be broken. We're honoring those who smashed them wide open.

As 2016 comes to a close, it's safe to say this past year was a great one for the fashion industry. However, it was an even better one for the movers, shakers and, most importantly, Fashion Rule Breakers who worked tirelessly to make a positive difference in it.

From stepping out on their "runway of dreams,"  to showcasing the beauty of "misfit models," A Plus's original Lifestyle series Fashion Rule Breakers profiled fashion designers, models, organizations, and icons who dare to defy industry norms and fight for what they believe. 

Some fashion rules were made to be broken. That's exactly why we're honoring this year's 10 Fashion Rule Breakers who smashed them wide open: 

1. Viktorija Ceplike

Courtesy of Viktorija Ceplike
Courtesy of Viktorija Ceplike

Our series kicked off in Februrary with Viktorija Ceplike, co-owner of VIKE, an ethical garment production company in Kaunas, Lithuania. By putting her employees first, she ensures they earn a livable wage, and that they receive nearly a month of paid vacation days. 

That's a stark contrast to most factories in today's fashion industry who often employ practices bordering on modern-day slavery for factory workers to mass produce fast-fashion in the cheapest way possible. We think this "rule" was definitely made to be broken and hope more companies follow Ceplike's lead in 2017. 

2. Mindy Scheier

Courtesy of Mindy Scheier
Courtesy of Mindy Scheier

March was all about Mindy Scheier, the fashion designer and mother who founded Runway of Dreams. Inspired by her son Oliver, who has a rare form of muscular dystrophy, Scheier's organization works "with the fashion industry to adapt mainstream clothing for the differently-abled community." 

That's not just their mission statement; that's their mission accomplished. Last February, Runway of Dreams and Tommy Hilfiger launched their first collaborative line of adaptive clothing. By helping to bring clothes for differently-abled children into the mainstream, Scheier is empowering her son and countless others like him to feel confident and included. 

3. Mariah Idrissi

Courtesy of Mariah Idrissi
Courtesy of Mariah Idrissi

In April, A Plus chatted with Mariah Idrissi, the very first model to wear a hijab in an ad for H&M, the second largest clothing retailer in the world. "It felt unbelievable ... And to be called a 'legend' by some was amazing," the London-based model told A Plus. "People felt it was a breakthrough for modest fashion consumers as well as for Muslims to have some recognition in the mainstream fashion world."

While H&M hasn't always had the best reputation, their 2016 Close the Loop campaign signified a step in the right direction. Created with the intention of promoting clothes recycling to their consumers, the ad featured Idrissi along with a variety of body types, genders, cultures, and religions. Not only can anyone do their part to save the planet, but anyone and everyone can be fashionable while they're at it. 

4. Del Keens

If April showers bring May flowers, then April Fashion Rule Breakers must bring May Misfit Models. That month, A Plus spoke with Del Keens, who's not your typical, run-of-the-mill supermodel. Nonetheless, he's worked for such big brands as Renault, Calvin Klein, Levi's, and Diesel Jeans.  

Keens began his career  and gained international attention with Ugly Models, a London-based agency representing character models. After moving to Berlin, he decided to create his own called Misfit Models, which currently represents nearly 600 models of various genders, shapes, sizes, and ages. By drawing positive attention to "unconventional" beauty, Keens isn't just breaking one of the fashion industry's oldest "rules." He's making new ones.

5. Gerda Mi

Courtesy of Gerda Mi
Courtesy of Gerda Mi

Gerda Mi, a 26-year-old Lithuanian woman, brought fierce femininity to a heavily male-dominated sport, surfing, in June. She's breaking all the gender rules in Bali, Indonesia with her company, Makara, a "swimsuit brand for surfer chicks." Mi told A Plus, "We want to inspire girls to believe in themselves and try surfing. All while wearing something they feel both comfortable and confident in."

She believes one of the main reasons surfing has remained a mostly male-dominated sport is because women aren't always properly equipped for its physical demands and risks. Since starting her brand, however, she's noticed more and more women getting into the sport, including girls in her local communities in Indonesia. Each year, Mi helps makes this happen by donating Makara swimsuits to these girls. 

6. Ward + Robes

In July, we covered Ward + Robes' creation of unique, personalized, and totally awesome hospital gowns for Canadian teen patients. By using fashion to remind young people how important they are as individuals, the company empowers them as they confront their illnesses. The organization began when Krista of Rethink Canada approached the Starlight Children's Foundation Canada, whose mission is to improve the "lives of seriously ill children and their families by bringing them joy, laughter, and relief," with the concept of creating special, designer hospital gowns. 

Since its launch, Ward + Robes has delivered 100 hospital gowns to patients at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. That initiative was such a success, Starlight is now on a mission to spread the program throughout Canada and, hopefully someday, internationally. 

7. Tayo Ade

With the heat of August beating down, A Plus decided to show some skin, or at least talk about it with Tayo Ade, the founder of FleshTone.net. While clothes marked "nude" are meant to match the dresser's skin tone, in the fashion industry, "nude" too often translates into beige. To help people of color find better apparel options, the FleshTone website serves as a one-stop-shop for brands like Naja, a lingerie company with bras and underwear in seven skin tone shades as part of their "Nude For All" campaign

Ade was inspired to create FleshTone due to her experience as a dancer plagued with finding tights to match her skin tone. "I looked high and low on the Internet and around dance stores for the best value and quality dance wear that catered to my skin tone," she told A Plus. "So I thought to myself, 'Why not have everything — including reviews — in one place?'" Now, she's brought together all the brands into one easily accessible online shop for people of color to find the best products from trusted sources. 

8. Leanne Mai-Ly Hilgart

A Plus
A Plus

In September, A Plus toured the flagship store of Vaute Couture, the first all-vegan apparel line. In a Facebook Live interview with Leanne Mai-Ly Hilgart, the company's founder and designer, we learned nothing pairs better with high fashion than compassion. For Vaute Couture, that doesn't just mean animals, but also the environment and the people who make the company's clothes. 

No stranger to fashion rule breaking, Hilgart was dubbed "the rebel of Fashion Week" by CNN at Vaute Couture's 2013 NYFW debut. From winter coats to ball gowns, Vaute Couture has become a go-to destination for not only vegan and sustainable, but absolutely beautiful clothes. 

9. Michele Choi and Alison Lyness

In October, A Plus discovered a unique, not to mention totally awesome, way to protect women from sexual assault: a high-tech friendship bracelet. Though the ONEE (pronounced Oh-Nee) looks like a typical bracelet, with a sleek white or black design, wearers can use Bluetooth to communicate quickly and easily with friends linked via the ONEE app

In an interview with two of the device's founders, Michele Choi and Alison Lyness, we learned how a single tap could save a person's life. One tap on the bracelet signifies "I'm good" via a vibration sent to a friend's synced bracelet, a double tap sends a long, continuous signal for distress. By using something so ubiquitous as a jewelry item to reduce the risk of sexual assault and encourage bystander intervention, the founders of ONEE are the best kind of "fashion rule breakers."

10. Jason Pinchoff

Courtesy of Jason Pinchoff
Courtesy of Jason Pinchoff

To cap off our Fashion Rule Breakers series, A Plus spoke with a cap master, Jason Pinchoff. After founding The Linda B. Pinchoff Foundation, an organization to honor his late mother and raise cancer awareness, he created a fashion line called A PINCH LIFE to provide children in hospitals with accessories such as hats. Recently, he took his altruistic business one step further with its "I Don't Do Ugly" campaign. By creating a collection of t-shirts and accessories with the "I Don't Do Ugly" slogan printed on them, Pinchoff aims to promote a positive, anti-bullying message, especially with regard to cancer patients. 

His work, and the work of others who have posted #IDontDoUgly pictures to social media, have begun to transform "a vicious insult, 'You're ugly,' into a declaration of independence from the scars of the illness, hurtfulness, and negative purpose." Pinchoff's campaign has also inspired people from all walks of life to share their personal stories on social media and challenge their friends to do the same. By giving a negative word too often used in the fashion industry a new, positive purpose, Pinchoff is our final fashion rule breaker. 

We can't wait to break even more fashion "rules" in 2017. Here's to another industry-cracking, stereotype-shattering, bad-assing year!