The fashion industry has longed for change, inclusivity is no longer a token gesture. The voices of those in isolated groups are now speaking up, using their voice to create impact. People with disabilities are making a breakthrough in fashion, telling their stories as a way to disrupt its norms. Becoming leaders of justice, they are manifesting integrated causes for the disabled community. Banging on the door of fashion and making it bold.
If the essence of fashion is all about vibrancy and expression, then why are people feeling excluded? Inclusion as a concept, holds power. For instance, fashions background is shadowed by over-sexualisation and restrictive representation. It’s unrealistic. Consequently, pressures are building from those in isolated groups who have shined the light on injustice. Who wrote fashions unwritten rules? Most certainly, this awakening has made developments in imagery, but understanding and accessibility continue to be barriers. A seemingly new concept, fashion has started to incorporate diverse models in their campaigns, but this fleeting gesture only gives them green ticks in a PC climate. Consequently, disabled people are starting to use their voice to advocate their needs. Body politics is opening up the conversation of acceptance. The rule book is being torn as leading advocates are becoming symbols of self-acceptance and empowerment.
Stories, experiences, and collective thinking. Before the fashion industry makes minor nudges to inclusivity, there needs to be a wider dialogue. Define disability. Collectively grouping people is the first point of ignorance, as people’s needs and experiences will always be different. In other words, accessing the unique stories of this community will allow perspectives to widen. For instance, Eleanor Manton, a Down’s syndrome model for JoJo Maman Bebe, gained traction on social media. The mother of the two-year old, argues “If children like Eleanor are seen in the fashion industry, it’s going to keep raising awareness… and it’s not a shock to them.” Leading by example, Eleanor is displaying how normality can be nurtured, learnt, and accepted. Fashions dreamlike state is no longer desirable. Thus, dialogue around diversity and inclusion are starting to have magnetic force in the outcome of fashion branding and designs. Perception is power.
Diverse models aren’t mannequins, they are structures of representation. When the fashion industry allows for greater inclusion, it makes it more relatable. Ellie Goldstein has made waves in Gucci’s campaign of representing true beauty. At 18 years old, Ellie is making waves, stating “let the world see that anyone can model and act with a disability.” Moreover, with major designers like Gucci recognising the importance of Ellie’s portrayal, it highlights how overdue this imagery is. Showing signs of understanding is key to making disabled people feel more included. The definition of normal has attracted a stigma that limits self-expression and prevents identity. Therefore, fostering and displaying awareness is disclosing how fashion brands are complementing the pressure. In sum, the collective experience and shared stories being used in fashion campaigns, are making for an empowering industry.
Does fashions history give reasons for its lack of diversity? The Purple Pound refers to the spending power of disabled households. With a combined average of £16 billion, this social group is severely undercooked when it comes to accessibilitly. Despite the lack of representation and visibility, people with disabilities are an underlying powerhouse. If imagery and designs became more inclusive, the fashion industry could make a prosperous insight. Australian model, Madeline Stuart has Down’s syndrome and has walked on several runways. Now a designer, 21-year old is using her experience to empower those alike. So, if designers with disabilities made their mark on the industry, inclusivity would have a natural authentic entrance into the fashion industry. Shared experiences are becoming innovative.
To conclude, fashion diversity has to start from the outside. The formations of fashion are dependent on those who participate. Fashions focus has become decentralised, with social groups holding the power. Shared experiences and collective thinking has become a tool of social acceptance and empowerment. The voices of disabled models has become an authentic representation of their needs to feel accepted. Sustainable actions by leading activists will create for long-term development in the industry. Leading the conversations on inclusion is what the industry needs. Integration starts with acceptance.