The new New York Fashion Week takes liberties with tradition

As part of New York Fashion Week, which kicks off this morning, plus-size super model and Sports Illustrated swimsuit alum Ashley Graham will debut an eponymous collection of ready-to-wear lingerie.

The runway, produced by New York production company Style360 and underwritten by South Korean car maker Kia Motors, promises to be star-studded: Kylie Jenner will be there, as will 19-year-old model Jordyn Woods.

"Who would think a size-16 model would have an event this big, with so many confirmed celebrities?" said Philadelphia publicist Rakia Reynolds, who represents Graham. "Five years ago, this would not have been the case at all."

Hundreds of designers participate in New York Fashion Week, the twice-yearly series of runway presentations that predict spring and fall trends. But each year, more of them reject the long-institutionalized values of American fashion.

Some have realized that the industry's strict definition of beauty alienated its core customers - not all women aspire to be 5-foot-10 and 120 pounds. And others, like young  Chadds Ford -bred knitwear designer Amanda Phelan, got into the industry to change how people buy and value clothing by focusing on making high quality, artistic pieces.

But in the spring 2017 season, the rebellion has moved beyond an underground rumbling. It's palpable - even visible - on the catwalks throughout the WME-IMG New York Fashion Week shows held in the tents adjacent to the post office, in the downtown Milk Studios, and among the smattering of locations all over New York.

Take these examples of the week's more diverse runway presentations:

Byron Lars, one of Michelle Obama's favorite designers, plans to feature plus-size models on his spring 2017 runway.

Baltimore's Steve Boi will continue his goal to include more transgender models in his show.

Vogue Fashion Fund finalist Misha Nonoo invited fans to view her ethereal women's wear line presentation via Snapchat.

And veteran Tommy Hilfiger on Friday night will present his fall 2016 collection - not spring 2017, as is the tradition. People will have the chance to buy several pieces on his website as soon as they hit the stage.

That's not to say heavy hitters like Carolina Herrera, Ralph Lauren, and Calvin Klein won't present their spring 2017 collections with industry standard models (read white and skinny) glammed to the max at the appropriate times.

It's just that we won't be paying attention solely to them solely because they're the heavy hitters. We don't have to.

Fashion Week is no longer a monolith that dictates what people should wear, or, more important, how to define beauty. Just ask all of the people supporting Alicia Keys' powerful one-woman crusade against makeup.

And then there is the role local Fashion Weeks play.

Once considered by the fashion industry as small potatoes - where no trends were born - the regional runways are proving to be the place to take the pulse of a particular community's values.

Philly Fashion Week will enter its 11th year this month. The designers featured might not be household names, but their runways and audience represent a cross section of real people, so much so that Fern Mallis, former director of New York Fashion Week when it was managed under IMG, came to two consecutive Philly Fashion Weeks and is scheduled to return for the fall 2017 shows in February.

"They were tired of the backlash," said Kevin Parker, one of Philly Fashion Week's founders.

"While we were offering a diverse roster of designers and models, it just wasn't happening in the bigger sphere. They knew they had to catch up with the times."

ewellington@phillynews.com215-854-2704

@ewellingtonphl