Does the Fashion Industry Neglect Disability?

Fashion is a huge industry and is so embedded into our daily lives even if we do not necessarily notice it. Fashion is everywhere on television adverts, billboards, magazines, and many more platforms, and over the years has sparked various questions as to whether the fashion industry is bias to certain stereotypes.


Disabled people for many years have been ignored in mainstream fashion and in the year 2020, it should be something celebrated and expressed through fashion and fashion marketing. It is prominent that from mainstream fashion brands websites, and social media pages that their content clearly does not tailor the disabled community, as in many cases there is zero disabled models featuring to promote their products.


Fashion has frequently isolated certain groups and not represented enough diversity within the industry. It is now a time where individuals are speaking out and making ground-breaking changes to the fashion world, for the better.


The Realisation


Over one billion people in the world have disabilities and therefore it is clear disability needs to be normalized within the fashion industry. Despite not all disabilities being visible, many brands have the power to promote and raise awareness surrounding disabilities and it seems ludicrous that many of these businesses have not considered this bearing in mind their platforms and followings.


Not only is the lack of disabled models an issue in mainstream fashion but also the clothes accommodating for these people. For many people with disabilities they require certain clothing types to accommodate them.


Various fashion brands have specific sections to accommodate tall, petite and plus size body types so why is it this fashion industry is not more open to adapting for all. It is clear that fashion will never be able to adapt to everyone’s individual needs, but it is certain they could absolutely try harder. Small elements such as zips and fiddly buttons is a huge challenge for many disabled individuals and does limit them in their fashion choices.


What is Changing?


However despite many brands showing ignorance to disability there are some who are celebrating and enlightening disability. 2019 was seen and a landmark year for design and disability, and a huge increase was seen in the amount of adaptive clothing produced.


Tommy Hilfiger was the first mainstream brand to develop a clothing line with caters for individuals’ specific needs. This seems to be a huge milestone for the disabled community as for many individuals fashionable and stylish clothing has been so out of reach for them after many years of being overlooked and forgotten.


Diverse models show inspiration and representation within the fashion world and allows greater audience inclusion – it’s an opportunity for people to see these models and think how amazing and inspiring they are.


Ellie Goldstein is a prime example of this featuring in various brands campaigns such as Gucci and Glamour magazine. Ellie was the first ever down syndrome model to model for such a huge brand and has since gone on to feature in various different campaigns. Ellie stated; “I want to represent everyone with a disability and show myself off to the world.”


This is such a empowering statement and really emphasizes just how overdue the collaboration of disability and the fashion is. Gucci posted an Instagram picture of Ellie promoting their L’Obscur mascara where the post gained 865,692 likes being one of Gucci’s most like pictures – this just goes to show how much of a positive and empowering impact it had on so many individuals. However this realization from Gucci has now given many individuals all over the world the confidence and inspiration to express themselves in ways that have only been imaginable over the years.



To conclude, disability and fashion have unarguably had a tough relationship over the years but there does seem to be progress and exception within the industry. More and more disabled models have featured on fashion runways and campaigns which is extremely heart-warming to see as diversity is so important within fashion and, fashion is a way in which people can represent themselves and is used as a tool of empowerment.


The voices that disabled models have been given through many fashion brands is enlightening and should be considered by the masses within the fashion world.


Fashion should be acceptance and from this the fashion industry will become a much more diverse and impacting industry.

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