Clothes are simple items. They do not come with complications or inconveniences. Unfortunately, those are only facts if you are a non-disabled person. Many people with visible disabilities do not have that luxury of seeing clothes as simple items. For example, putting on a pair of socks may not be easy for a person without hands. But, as we are now living in a time where the world is becoming more accepting of all groups, has this led to the fashion industry becoming resentful towards the disability community?
Fashion runway first started in the early 1900s. However, it wasn’t until 2016 when Ukrainian model in a wheelchair, Alexandra Kutas, did the runway. Of course, Kutas deserves the accolades for pushing the boundaries for disabled people interested in the industry, however, it is shameful that this had happened so late. It would be an outright lie to say that the world has been without disabled people until 2010. The disability community has always existed, and it would be thoughtless to believe that no one in that community has never had an interest in fashion. So, what does that say about the fashion industry?
For it to take over a century until the first person with a disability to make it into mainstream fashion, it forces you to ask, was Kutas debut calculated? Was this done to avoid the industry being labelled as ignorant?
Not all disabilities are visible. Therefore, there should be no reason as to why the community were not included in the fashion industry up until recent years. The fashion industry could have had the head start when it came to industries becoming more inclusive and diverse. They could have had the opportunity to educate their devotees on how many disabilities are not visible, assuring people who were interested in fashion that their disability would not be a deal breaker if they wanted a career in that field.
The lack of this suggests that the industry made a conscious effort to keep the disability community out of fashion and only exclusive to the non-disabled for as long as they could.
Is there an axe to grind?
Despite there being an increasing rate of mainstream models with disabilities, there is not that many compared to the models who are non-disabled. Perhaps, that would naturally be considering it was just few years ago when models with disabilities were being acknowledged. However, is this acknowledgement genuine within the industry or is it out of pity?
If you were to name five models from the top of your head, there is a likelihood that those models are non-disabled.
It is well deserved that the disability community are being represented within the fashion industry but how many models with disabilities can you name? How many models with disabilities can you think of that have been able to maintain their relevance? How many models with disabilities have extensive careers? How many models with disabilities have been dangled in front of us to prove that businesses are being inclusive and then are rarely to be seen by us again?
These things are no fault of the disability community and their models, but it gives an insight to how the industry treats the community. Does the fashion industry respect the disability community?
Does fashion really consider the disability community?
Majority of clothes that are manufactured are manufactured for non-disabled people in mind. A lot of people with disabilities have to go out of their way for clothes that appeal to them, whether that be going to a specific shop or having to alter the clothes to meet their needs.
As much as disabled people can be represented in mainstream fashion, what significance does that have if it doesn’t extend to the average person with a disability wanting to buy a top from a shop where everyone else buys from?
Has this all been a smokescreen?
The attitudes that the fashion community has had towards the disability community is interesting. Their attempts to be inclusive have been quite successful but that depends on the level of success. How much of that success actually reaches the average person and has an impact on their everyday lives?
Fashion has such an influential force that it’s made its way into politics, media, education, and many more things, so, the inaction of including the disability community and the extent of that inclusion is poor. However, the past cannot be rewritten, so, hopefully going forward, the industry is going to be more genuine in their ways to include the community.