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Embracing Disability in the Fashion Industry

The fashion industry is a global market and is there for everyone to enjoy. The fashion industry has always presented an image of beauty in which we all feel we need to follow. If we don’t fit that image we should take a back seat, particularly when we’re comparing ourselves to the supermodels we see in the media.

We’re taught that beauty means tall, thin and beautiful, but why does this have to be? There is over 7 billion individuals in the world, all with differences which are unique to themselves. Why are we still not embracing this to our full potential?

In a world that has seen a rise in body positivity and empowering our individuality, it seems that we haven’t yet helped people with disabilities. 15% of the world’s population – over 1 billion people – have some form of disability. Yet there is a tiny market to cater to people with disability in the fashion industry.

As a society, we have shared morals, beliefs, and values. Particularly on soical media, we are proliferated with content, most of which is telling us what we should think beauty is. Unfortunately, with the way in which we are persuaded by social media and the age in which we start using social media. The younger generation are even more conditioned with this idea of ‘beauty’. If we don’t start producing more media content with a focus towards disability in fashion, they will continue to feel neglected in the industry.

Helping the younger generation understand disability in fashion is key to changing the fashion industry for the better. When we think of models we think of Kate Moss, Kendal Jenner, Naomi Campbell and so on. However, I, myself, couldn’t tell you off the top of my head a model with a disability. The issue is they aren’t yet normalised and celebrated in the mainstream media. However, I then went on google to investigate and found some amazing models, who I believe should have more of the limelight.

Models worth knowing:

Kelly Knox is a British model who was born without her left forearm. Knox has been part of multiple campaigns, which are bringing light to individuals with disabilities and their role in fashion. The blonde bombshell has used her platform to influence society and helped us to understand how people with disabilities can help the fashion industry to thrive.

Jamie Brewer, an America Model and actor, who has been on our screen since 2011. Brewer, 35, was born with Down syndrome and has made a name for herself in America and around the world starring in multiple fashion campaigns and hit TV shows, such as American Horror Story.

Mama Cax, who sadly passed away in 2019 aged only 30. Cax had an amazing career as a model and activist. She was an advocate for raising awareness of people with disabilities in the fashion industry. After reading her story it really empowers us to do all we can to make sure we help create awareness!

Aaron Philip, became the first black, transgender model with a physical disability at the young age of 16. 2 years ago, Elite Model Management – a major modelling agency- signed Philip. Her sensational career has put her on runways for major designers such as Dior and Gucci.

What needs to change?

Even with these examples of beautiful models it baffles me that I wasn’t aware of them before. A lot of brands are starting to see the importance of inclusivity, however there is not enough focus. These inspiring models should be the idols that we worship, real people with real stories. They have have so little attention. It is now the job of the fashion industry to set up and make a change. We need to see more fo these models on the cover of Vogue and on billboards. Its time to embrace our individuality.

From marketing campaigns to high street store mannequins, there’s a lot of little changes that could be in place to be more inclusive. I would love to walk into a high street shop and see diversity in the mannequins. How amazing would it be for young children with disabilities to see more models like them! What an amazing world would it be if we all felt beautiful. We could embrace our differences instead of hiding them away. I know that’s a world I would love to live in.

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