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MOD COVERS

AHEAD OF THE CURVE

Meet Candice Huffine, the model on a mission to reshape the fashion industry and beyond

Photography Ungano + Agriodimas  Fashion Direction and Words Sally Matthews

Candice wears: Top by Baum und Pferdgarten. Scarf (worn as turban) by Asceno. Earrings by Monica Sordo.

With female voices ringing a little louder in a new era of women’s empowerment, there are some who have never shied away from standing up for what they believe in. Some who have spent their entire careers campaigning for more acceptance, and reshaping how beauty is perceived and what that looks like today. Especially when that shape typically only comes in one size… Sample.

Enter Candice Huffine. At just 32 years of age, the American-born model already has more than 17 years of experience under her belt. She also has her own activewear clothing line, Day/Won, and she is founder of Project Start, an initiative which encourages women to begin running. A self-proclaimed “encourager of being yourself”, Candice, who at a healthy UK size 16 (the average clothing size of women in the US and UK today), is still something of an anomaly when it comes to the catwalks and ad campaigns of luxury fashion houses.

Hand-picked by the late great editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia, Franca Sozzani, for the magazine’s June 2011 ‘Style Has No Size’ cover, Candice — photographed by Steven Meisel — was propelled into fashion’s spotlight and is largely credited with waking up an industry whose idea of beauty had gotten a little stuck in its ways. Since then she’s gone on to appear on the covers of W Magazine, i-D and ELLE, to name just a few. She has taken on the role as spokesperson for ‘size inclusivity’ alongside peers such as Ashley Graham and a new wave of models who are using their platforms to showcase a more real and reflective beauty today. And as more major fashion brands begin to acknowledge the fact that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, this year marked another milestone for the 5ft11 model as she walked the runways of Prabal Gurung, Tome and Christian Siriano, championing diversity one well-heeled step at a time.

 

 

“When I shot Italian Vogue, the industry took notice that there was a place for a different kind of model or woman in this business, and from that moment I took on the very personal role of being that voice,” Candice tells me as we sit down after a day spent shooting The MOD’s cover in Brooklyn, New York, just a stone’s throw away from where she lives with her husband and their pet dog (both of whom walked her to work today). “At that time in 2011 we didn’t have the expectation and platform we have now. There wasn’t really Instagram or social media… So by the time we got here, where there is more diversity in the industry, where I can really use my voice for good, I was prepared.”

A preparation that perhaps began from an early age growing up in Georgetown, Washington and moving to more rural Maryland where she was a regular on the pageant circuit. “It’s very easy to chuckle at the pageant scene, but it did give me so many tools I use today,” she says. “You have to learn at a young age to speak in front of an audience eloquently and support other women. If you don’t win you can’t storm off the stage,” she laughs. “You need to stand there and be happy for the woman who did, so there was a lovely sisterhood involved.”

Still wearing The MOD’s ’60s-inspired winged eye-liner, but now dressed in a loose pyjama style two-piece and trainers, there is no denying Candice is an exquisite beauty. Her cheekbones sit high, lips full, legs long and lean — she credits those to her marathon training — and her curves seem to fill out in all the right places. That said, there is an approachability to her beauty, she is a woman’s woman, and spending time in Candice’s company is like spending time with an old friend. The kind of friend that makes you feel compelled to stand up and do something, with an easy strength and determined confidence that seems to be far beyond her 32 years. Perhaps the result of beauty queen training? Or maybe this is just what a woman who is comfortable in her own skin looks like.

Jumpsuit by Merchant Archive. Turtle neck by Joseph. Shoes by Tabitha Simmons. Earrings by Erickson Beamon.

Dress by Maison Rabih Kayrouz coming soon. Scarf (worn as turban) by Asceno. Earrings by Monica Sordo. Shoes by Malone Souliers.

Just because I have curves or cleavage, or whatever, it doesn’t mean that my own personal style is to show that all the time

However, being body confident can’t be easy when at 15-years-old, an age we typically become more self-aware and critical about our bodies, you sign a modelling contract with a plus size agency. “I mean it’s very confusing, I never knew much about the plus size industry and never looked at myself as a plus size girl at that time,” Candice says. “I was 15 and was told I was plus size but at the same time I was getting the contract of my dreams so I was like ‘whatever it takes, sign me up’.”

The term ‘plus size’ itself is clearly one that Candice is very well versed in discussing, and seeks to change. “I have been in defence of it coming from a traditional standpoint because it was how a woman of a certain size was able to find her clothing (because it’s always separated) and how clients could find models of a certain size,” she says. “Although now I am not in a plus-sized division at IMG, I am amongst all the models, it would be lovely in a shopping environment if I didn’t have to go to a different floor to shop. Yes, in the past I understand why it existed, but why does it exist now?” she questions. “I think we can do away with it and I think we are getting closer and closer to that.”

During today’s shoot, Candice slips effortlessly in and out of The Modist’s looks, from Roland Mouret’s tux trousers to Adam Lippes’ embroidered coat, cooing over Marco De Vicenzo’s metallic dress which skims her physique in all the right places. “I’ve been saying all day that this is the kind of style that speaks to me. Just because I have curves or cleavage, or whatever, it doesn’t mean that my own personal style is to show that all the time,” she says scanning our rails of clothing. “Shopping can be very frustrating so I am happy to know somewhere like The Modist exists.”

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Jacket by Sandra Mansour.

Take a quick glimpse at Candice’s glamorous red carpet turns or her Instagram feed and that seems difficult to believe. “I am a woman and my body fluctuates. And when it fluctuates to an inbetween point that is bigger than the last size they carry in a mainstream store but smaller than the first size they carry of a plus size store, you literally end up in no-man’s land,” she explains. “I’ve had to get so creative and I’ve gotten really comfortable wearing men’s clothes, not because they are the only things that fit me, but it’s what matches my style and I can get a button down that I can actually button and it doesn’t gape,” she smiles. “Any woman who has gone to buy jeans knows that feeling, we are all in the same boat it’s just that sometimes when you are a larger size your boat is in a different harbour.”

And it’s not only the shopping experience that needs an update. Take a quick look back at the industry’s portrayal of fuller figured women and most often they are shown in barely-there clothing, or nothing at all. “It’s like we are always kind of in a bit of a state of undress and I don’t understand why,” she muses. “Just because we have curves, is that the only style that is reserved for us now? It’s a little bit of the Kardashian effect too, that doesn’t help,” she adds. “I’m drawn to things that are more modest and demure, that’s what my eye sees as chic and that’s my aesthetic.”

 

Any woman who has gone to buy jeans knows that feeling, we are all in the same boat it’s just that sometimes when you are a larger size your boat is in a different harbour

 

And with over 200K Instagram followers, not to mention the thousands following her activewear line Day/Won (@yourdaywon) and Project Start (@PSyougotthis) accounts, choosing how she is portrayed is now in her hands. “I am a huge fan,” she says of Instagram, “What I like about it is that you don’t have to wait for your big moment to share your story”. And whilst previously it seemed we were in an era of naval gazing (hello selfie!), Candice is part of a new collective of models such as Adwoa Aboah, Halima Aden and Cameron Russell using their feeds to champion change and empower women, bringing about a, well needed, time of forward gazing.

“For me, I look at it as if my Instagram was a coffee table book would I want to open it and look at it?” says Candice. “I just always want it to be authentic and inspiring and I take a lot of time trying to figure out what I am actually saying to people. Seventy-five percent of my followers are women who are my age, so I think what would I want to hear if I saw this picture? Your photo isn’t just for double taps and likes if you don’t want it to be, you can have it mean more and that’s the way I like to operate my brand or persona… It’s just me, I don’t know how to be anybody else.”

Candice has now broadened her goals and is taking on the fitness industry, another place that has historically been stuck in one version of what ‘fit’ looks like. Having run two marathons this year (Boston and New York), and with the launch of her own activewear line Day/Won — a name derived from that feeling of “a day conquered and well lived” — the model is determined to make fitness accessible to every ‘body’. As such, Day/Won sizing starts at a UK 4 and goes all the way up to a UK 28. “Often when a designer or a brand extends their sizing they completely change the collection,” she says. “It’s not as trendy as their mainstream collection and the fabrics are different or the selection is limited. I wanted to prove you can serve all women and I want to do it the right way.”

Well, consider us served. Whether it’s working to making fuller figures more mainstream and a staple on magazine covers and catwalks, designing size-inclusive clothing, public speaking on panels, or just powerful Instagram posts, Candice is practicing what she preaches, paving the way for a more inclusive and real version of beauty. As we say goodbye and she breezes out of the studio she tells me, “I’m just very inspired by the women of our time, it feels incredible to be a woman right now, it’s like we are on the verge of something, we all feel a little united and ignited.” And after a day spent — or should we say ‘Won’ — with Candice Huffine, we’ve been ignited too.

Dress by Rachel Comey. Trousers by Rachel Comey. Shoes by Neous. Earrings by Racil.

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Dress by Marco De Vincenzo. Scarf (worn in hair) by Marni. Shoes by Malone Souliers.

Top by Baum und Pferdgarten. Scarf (worn as turban) by Asceno. Earrings by Monica Sordo.

Turban by Dima Ayad coming soon. Shirt by Racil. Bow tie by Racil. Earrings by Alberta Ferretti. Trousers by Roland Mouret. Shoes by Tabitha Simmons.

Jacket by Sandra Mansour. Belt by Safiyaa. Skirt by Roland Mouret.

Cape by Safiyaa.

HERO BANNER FILLER

Make-up Misha Shahzada
Hair Deycke Heidorn
Manicure Elisa Ferri
Fashion Assistant Sinéad Lawlor 
Photo Assistants Mike Ortiz, Justin Bernard, Evan Dalcher and William Manchuck
Production Nina Ross and Janine Durham 


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