Fashion is the world of creativity, art and style. A world to be ourselves by showing our identity through our appearance. Sadly, its approach is so heavily focused on visual aesthetics, so its history is encased in a dark cloud of poor representation and diversity. However, social media has adapted fashion’s traditional methods and is adhering to society’s dialogue about demanding realistic representations. People with disabilities face many barriers within fashion, but, their voices are helping to re-shape ingrained representations. Here’s how an image conscious industry has taken conscious steps to an all-inclusive world.
Holding up the mirror
Do you ever ask yourself, but what would that look like on me? For what seems like forever, fashion imagery has always projected a standard image of beauty, representing what is a micro proportion of real people. From the height of runway models, to perfect skin in campaigns, the auto-corrected world is finally changing. Removing expectations is only the start when it comes to new ways to market fashion. Seeing clothes on plastic mannequins in shop windows seems something of the distant past. Most importantly, fashion is undergoing a cultural reset. Finally, it is listening to the dialogue in society calling out for equal representation, unmuting the voices of people who matter.
Seeing is believing
Shop mannequins and billboards are no longer the drivers of sales, but merely a tool to make the high street a little more appealing. Social media influencers have revolutionised our thinking and buying habits, helping to maximise diversity in every corner of the industry. Instagram is the new tool for the fashion industry, we can see how items fit and look without wondering if they have been digitally enhanced in a studio workshop. UK blogger Tess Daly has 205k followers on Instagram, empowering alike people with makeup, beauty and fashion tips. Influencers like Tess are becoming the connective bridge in helping us find reliability in fashion products. Equal representation from brands is on the rise and consumers are now seeing versions of themselves.
Diversity in fashion is multi-facetted which is why social media influencers are the perfect relief. Madeline Stuart, the first supermodel with Down syndrome, is an inspiration for highlighting how fashion is removing the barriers and allowing for a diverse platform. With 334k Instagram followers and having featured in several runway shows, Madeline is a leading advocate for inclusion. Seeing disabled models being the centre of AD campaigns or walking for designers is something that is on the rise. Most importantly, social media has allowed for a personal journey to finding content that speaks to them. Digital platforms have been a great way to integrate diversity into brands, helping to centralise the message of reliability. Most certainly, branding and marketing of fashion has never been so important.
Fashion choices are not always straight forward for people with disabilities. Poor layouts of stores and the design of garments were traditional barriers for disabled people. Brands are starting to address these and have introduced discrete solutions to help keep fashion a main priority. Designer Tommy Hilfiger launched an Adaptable range in 2018. From velcro fasteners to press studs, fashionable clothing is providing the answers to somewhat overlooked needs. Sporting their new collection is Paralympian Jeremy Campbell, highlighting how his disability is never to be considered a limitation. Above all, this level of acceptance has been long awaited by people with disabilities. Seeing is believing, every voice matters and the time is now.