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Can I be beautiful too?

How the fashion industry is contradicting towards disabled people

As we enter the new normality after lockdown, everyone has realised how everyone’s lives are different and how so much change makes us appreciate what we have as a society. Does this new normality include more diverse approaches to minorities, who want to be as equally successful, as their counterparts?

The fashion industry is growing every year, to become more approachable to a wider audience. Plus size modelling has become more exposed in the last 15 years, where models such as Ashley Graham, have achieved the international recognition. Gender neutralism, such as drag acts, started drawing attention thanks to reality TV shows like RuPaul. Naomi Smalls and Violet Chachki, whom were contestants have since made their ways onto the catwalk.

However, the real question lies, about the disabled community, do they still have a chance to shine their own light to the world and prove their worth in fashion?

Disability; has always been a large taboo in society. In most cases a mockery, and it continues to be a subject of discrimination. Throughout time, the disabled community have been told they don’t possess the same as everyone else. This is because, in the media, they are continuously represented this way.

Yet, as society has moved into a new normality, social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram, have been able to give them a certain motive, to express themselves in their own manner, different to what other social media influencers are doing. This gives these disabled influencers to shine their own form of beauty.

Aaron Philiip, a 20-year-old woman, who became the first, transgendered, black, and physically disabled model, to be signed to a major modelling agency in 2018. In 2021, she made her debut appearance, at the Moschino Spring/Summer 2022 Fashion Show. While she was strutting her moves, she was using a mobility aid.

Since her debut, she has been praised by critics, fans, and models such as Naomi Campbell, for bringing diversity and advocacy to the fashion world. She has shifted away the negative depiction of fashion, where previously models were in poor health, while walking the catwalk. She has been able to demonstrate strong appeal, with the same amount of embraced femininity, while striding in her wheelchair.

Despite her overnight success, could a phenomenal figure like her, whom has multiple minority traits, really changed the ordeal of the fashion industry?

Some may argue, she may have been chosen, as a form of exploitation. To bring a good reputation to the fashion houses, to show they care about others. Yet others may argue that, because Aaron, has so many minority traits, she is setting an example, that transgendered people of colour, can be disabled too, and they still have the same entitled to well known figures of the Instagirl era such as Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid, and Hailey Bieber.

After the Moschino fashion show, other luxury brands, have followed suit including Chromat, where another disabled model called Feminta Ayanbeku, debuted at their Fall show in 2020. Collina Strada, have taken the new inclusivity movement to their brand, with disabled model, Emily Barker.

Tommy Hilfiger, a prestigious brand, wanted to collaborate, with the up-and-coming disabled models, when in 2017, Hilfiger himself launched the Adaptive line. The line included sportswear and basics everyday wear pieces. He continued adapting the line and brought it to the 2021 Fall show, at New York Fashion Week, after the trend was increasing during the seasons.

This movement has indeed brought so much attention and acclaim, amongst the media and entertainment industries. The fashion industry has given people with disabilities as positive outlook, something they never thought they were able to achieve, their own right to beautiful.

Yet has the fashion industry done enough for them? Some other fashion houses, haven’t shown interest to follow the trend and still prefer to feature well known models in their advertisements and shows. This is not a form of discrimination, but a marketing approach. French fashion houses like Chanel and Louis Vuitton, carry on featuring models and actresses, because of their reputation as high A-listers, the public will want to buy their products.

If a disabled model is featured, some of the public may question if the designer products are suited for them. Unfortunately, some of the public, may not wear designer clothing featuring a disabled model, because they admired the luxurious appeal of the brand.

However, this trend is still in early stages and like always, a mixed reception will start. On social media platforms like Twitter, the public will express their opinions leading towards a debate to carry on the trend.

If disabled models carry on being featured, throughout time; it most likely will become the new normal. Fashion houses will find other more prominent ways to feature models of other minorities, because as a whole; each individual can express their own form of being beautiful.


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