THE FASHION INDUSTRY AND DISABILITY

Still in 2017, disability is one of the biggest misunderstanding in our society, especially from non-disabled people who think the disabled population do not care about how they look just because they are disabled! Disabled people too want to express their personalities and clothes are the perfect tools to do so. But why is the fashion industry  so reluctant to embrace or forget this part of our society?

Fashion has always been perceived in the past as an industry that strive for being something out of reach, making garments for the upper and middle classes, a world where only the insiders are allowed. Over the past three decades, fashion significantly changed, as it opened its market to a broader type of consumer and made it available for everyone at the turn of the 21st century. Yet, the only people left behind by the fashion industry are the disabled!

Having said that, many people like Angela Luna, a graduate student at Parsons School of Design create awareness. For example, Luna created clothes like coats that could turn into small tents. But, it is Lucy Jones who made a major contribution for the recognition and the need of specially designed clothes for disabled people, focusing on minimal and elegant clothes for wheelchair users. Other people took action in order to make life easier for disabled people such as Maura Horton who established her own company called MagnaReady. This company working on the outskirts of the fashion industry make magnetic closures instead of classic buttons.

In recent years, the fashion industry has also been compelled to face its inner issues about the lack of diverse models. The first thing that would come into our minds is the lack of men and women of color in the industry. But, we are very unlikely to admit we never consider disabled people to become models, too! Madeline Stuart of Australia with Down’s syndrome, was booked to walk at New York Fashion Week in 2015 as well as Jillian Mercado, a wheelchair user with spastic muscular dystrophy who had been signed with IMG, a renowned model agency.

There is, nonetheless, a lot of things that must be improved in order to provide full empowerment and recognition for disabled people in the fashion industry.

Kevin Harrak

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