I went on a Google search because I couldn’t think of a recent time I’ve seen a person with a disability in fashion ads. Turns out I was splendidly mistaken.
February of this year Mercedes Benz New York Fashion week, the holy of holies, catwalk Super Bowl, fashion Mecca, featured a show that presented models with disabilities cruising alongside some of fashions biggest stars. Italian fashion company FTL Moda teamed with Fondazione Vertical (an Italian research company for spinal cord injuries) to create one kick ass show. Amputees, wheelchair, cane and crutch users from all over the world wore the beautiful designs of Antonio Urzi.
The importance of the show wasn’t lost on anyone involved. Jack Meyers made history as the world’s first male amputee to walk on the NYFW catwalk. In a press release to Caters News Jack said “It [being the first male amputee model] feels like a such a big deal. I just want to show that having a disability doesn’t need to hold you back”. Producer Illaria Niccolini stated “It is a very significant moment in my career.“This opportunity to finally open the most recognized runways in the world to these beautiful talents, ready to show that disability is very often just a mental state by performing on the runway next to some of the best models on the scene.” (Buzzfeed)
The fashion industry continued to show range and inclusiveness a month later in Tokyo during their Mercedes Fashion Week. Forward thinking designer Takafumi Tsuruta showcased clothes that were inspired by assistive technology like Braille and magnetic buttons to aid wearers in putting on and taking off clothes easily (Bustle.com, Maureen Luyun). One of the models in the show included blind Paralympic gold medal swimmer Rina Akiyama.
Taking it back a year I came across a June 2014 People’s Magazine article that highlighted the Nordstrom company for consistently featuring models with disabilities. A spokeswoman for the high end brand Tara Darrow explains using the models, “is really about reflecting the customers and communities we serve”.
After stumbling upon these articles I’m borderline obsessed with eating up anything high fashion that features disability diversity. I’m working towards the day that it’s not a pleasurable rarity. Comment with anything you’ve come across in the industry!