As the world’s style elite flocked to Paris and all eyes turned to the French capital for the start of fashion week, Ameni Esseibi was busy breaking barriers.
Not only did the Tunisian-French model make her Paris Fashion Week debut, she did so as the only Arab woman to walk for Weinsanto — the event’s opening show — but also as one of only two plus-size models to feature.
With her brown hair styled in a pixie crop, Esseibi wore a long satin gown in ombre neutral shades, paired with cream elbow-length satin gloves.
“It was like a dream come true, because I was the only Arab on the runway so I was really representing all the Arabs, it was a really exciting moment — it felt amazing,” she tells The National.
“I was also one of the only plus-size models; there were only two-plus size girls on the runway, so I was not only representing Arabs but also diversity, so it was a two birds with one stone situation, which felt great. I love being on the runway — that walk, the lights, the cameras.”
Esseibi, who lives in Dubai, first walked for Weinsanto on her home turf at Arab Fashion Week earlier this year, and with the help of the Arab Fashion Council, for which she is an ambassador, was able to repeat the experience on fashion’s biggest stage last week.
Weinsanto is the eponymous label founded by designer Victor Weinsanto, who is Jean Paul Gaultier’s protege and student. The theatrical and daring collection, which he described as a “manifesto celebrating love, friendship, and creativity”, opened Paris Fashion Week on September 26.
“Fashion week is honestly crazy and super intense, but the feeling, the adrenalin, the running everywhere, I love it, I love that feeling,” the model says. “When fashion week is over, I feel empty, I’m like ‘what now?’.”
After Monday’s show, Esseibi shared her excitement with her 185,000 Instagram followers, thanking Weinsanto and the Arab Fashion Council for the experience. “Mama I made it Paris Fashion week!” she wrote. “Thank you so much @arabfashioncouncil for helping make my dream come true and @weinsanto for believing in me. This is just the beginning.”
For Esseibi, it was a pivotal moment in her modelling career, which started back in 2017 when she emerged as one of the first body-positive models from the Mena region.
In a previous interview with The National, Esseibi spoke of the power of embracing her body.
“It changed my life,” she said. “As a person who got bullied in high school, my weight affected me a lot. Body positivity taught me self-confidence, self-love, how to overcome my insecurities and to know my worth. It made me who I am today.
“I’m not modelling for the sake of modelling. I feel that, as an Arab who is bigger in size, I’m representing all the women living in the shadows, who are told they can’t celebrate their bodies and their beauty because they are not a certain size. They aren’t comfortable in their skin and I want to change that. I want to be their voice.”