The Paradox of Featuring Fashion Week Models with Disabilities
Posted on February 17, 2015
It’s fashion week, and as has become the trend, designers are employing beautiful people living with disabilities to model their fashions on one of the biggest runways in the world.
Here’s the thing, there are no mainstream retailers or fashion designers making or marketing products for these disabled models. Disabled models are simply used to promote the universal concept of inclusion for brands who don’t actually sell or do anything inclusive.
Let’s take a look at a few of these companies and designers who have featured models with disabilities.
Carrie Hammer – Fashion Week 2015; Jamie Brewer, Model (Down Syndrome)
Antonio Urzi – Fashion Week 2015; Jack Eyers, Model (Amputee)
Nina Perdomo – Fashion Week 2015; Megan Silcott (Paralysis)
Note the universal, uninspired walker. It’s honestly infuriating when viewed in the context of Megan’s beauty and her amazing outfit.
Gap 2014; RJ Mitte, Model (Cerebral Palsy)
JCPenney Real Mannequins 2014
Carrie Hammer – Fashion Week 2014; Karen Crespo, Model (Quadruple Amputee)
Now let’s take a look at a couple of the beautiful products that are ready to be mainstreamed and sold globally.
Sabi Classic, Left. Constructed out of the same materials used to make bicycles, skateboards and hiking boots.
Top and Derby Chatfield, Right. Beautifully crafted from walnut and silicone.
Alleles Prosthetic Covers. A whimsical and inspiring 3D Printed product with a fun website to browse through.
Eone Bradley Tactile Timepiece . For the visually impaired and/or fashionable. Great for checking time discreetly.
I applaud every designer who sees the beauty in someone living with a disability. But I also want to ask you. Why aren’t you doing more? Just look at the wheelchairs in these photos. They have hardly changed since they were originally designed in the 1950s. Yet consider the thought put into these garments. What would happen if you sent one of these models who happen to be using a wheelchair into a West Elm or a Crate and Barrel or a Design Within Reach and asked him or her to pick out a chair for their home. See, that’s the thing. There’s choice in every aspect of design, just not disability design.
I believe the market for all assistive mobile devices can be as profitable as the eyeglass market. Let’s make inclusion, right now it feels like we’re just faking it.
You wouldn’t just be supporting the beauty of an inclusive product, you would be supporting the safety.
Falls are the leading cause of death among our elderly. It is widely known that once you outfit an elderly person with the appropriate assistive device, you virtually eliminate falls. The reason assistive devices are not adopted by elderly people is due to stigma. I believe this stigma is deadly.
So answer me this. If Carrie Hammer, Gap and JCPenney are the first to employ models with disabilities, who will be the first to market to them?
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