For a long time, we have been accustomed to those angelic faces and devil figures that appeared in magazines, runways, and television. They stand at the forefront of the trend, attract lots of attention, look exquisite and perfect, seeming far away from our impression of “disabled”. However, disability is just one of the diversities in our world. It is our prejudice that sharply contrasts disability with the concepts of fashion, beauty, and fashion. Ignoring disability in the fashion field is like turning a blind eye to the elephant in the room.
Now we are pleasantly surprised to see that the fashion industry’s single aesthetic standard and the public are being broken. Fashion spokesperson’s with disabilities landed on shows, photos, and movies stunningly in the form of individuals or even small groups. Their bravery and publicity originate from the self-confidence born in their hearts. They have successfully expanded the breadth and depth of the concept of “beauty”. Sometimes, physical differences even become a fashion trait. Whether it is from the perspective of market potential, or adding new guidance to the mainstream fashion industry, their appearance undoubtedly demonstrates positive significance. The disintegration of the disabled group’s stereotype, the construction of a vibrant new image, and the rise of dignity and rights can all be initiated by their appearance.
In the previous New York Fashion Week, the Internet was swiped by this news: Madeline Stuart, an 18-year-old girl from Australia, is a patient with Down syndrome. Stuart’s mother launched an event on social media and finally let her wish come true and went to New York Fashion Week as a model!
Her Instagram account now has a lot of followers. She wrote on it: “I can hardly express my feelings about signing with IMG… If your will is strong enough, everything in the world is possible.”
Incidents like Jillian Mercado’s signing with IMG have shown us that things are indeed moving in the right direction, and the whole industry wants to see more. Another recent exciting change is that more and more designers have started to pay attention to this problem. They are beginning to think highly of how to design clothes to meet different people’s needs, such as how to make a piece of clothing that the able-bodied and disabled can both wear.
What’s more, many innovative designs have indeed appeared in the fashion industry. Many young designers have the ability to make incredible and even revolutionary designs. This kind of development potential should be explored and cultivated from the studying of the fashion design courses. Fashion with disabilities is an area full of opportunities for new designers to grasp.
Everything has its pros and cons. Jillian Mercado’s story also reminds us: when people talk about the diversified development of fashion, they often ignore the section of people with disabilities. Obviously, it’s pleasant to see people are paying more and more attention to the fashion industry’s diversity. And the fashion industry also pays more attention to this aspect of speech than before. However, such discussions are likely to be an endless loop. Sometimes we may see news about disabled models launching a campaign, or they walked on a flyover, a hot discussion will follow, and the media will rush to report. However, there is no substantial progress in disabled fashion. After some time, such news will appear again, and the situation will be the same.
Moreover, such incidents now easily give us a feeling that “signing disabled models is just a symbolic act,” and when this kind of news appears more and more, it is difficult not to question the brand. What is the motivation for this? Are these media, designers, or advertisements working for the diversified development of the fashion industry, or are they just trying to catch up with the trend, speak some useless words and take a form to express themselves? What about brand inclusiveness? This is a question worth pondering.
There is still a long way to go for the development of fashion for the disabled. However, it is worthy of recognition that the disabled have successfully expanded the breadth and depth of the concept of “beauty” in the minds of the public with their actions, and brought the rise of diversified aesthetics. Perhaps mutual acceptance is the best bridge, as the Japanese disability model Ayako Ozawa said: “There is a gap between the able-bodied and the disabled in daily life, and I think fashion is one way to break this gap .”