Fashion Icons Blaze Overdue Trail to Inclusion

For years, the fashion world has thought itself inclusive. Whether you are flipping through an issue of Vogue or the JC Penney catalog, the individuals featured are reminiscent of a Benneton ad. But do multi-ethnic models equal inclusion? Sure, it was a start, but no.

Nordstrom Disabled Models

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one in five Americans have a disability, but is that staggering statistic reflected on the pages of the latest fashion magazines? With the exception of a few avant-garde businesses who recognize the composition of their customer base, no.

That said, hats off to all of those forward-thinking exceptions to the rule! Last year, the storefronts of main drag in Zurich featured unique mannequins created by disability organization Pro Infirmis and based on real-life people with disabilities.

The Fall 2014 Nordstrom's catalog showcases models of varying abilities, including amputees and those in wheelchairs. To Nordstrom's credit, they've been actively featuring models with disabilities for more than two decades. But when Danielle Sheypuk—flaunting Carrie Hammer designs—put wheels to catwalk earlier this year, she became the first model in a wheelchair to grace New York Fashion Week. 

Nordstrom Disabled Models

"In general, people with disabilities are considered to be not sexy, asexual, pitiful, helpless, and frumpy just to name a few," she said. "These stereotypes simply are not true and people with disabilities are consumers of fashion—which is exactly why more designers should have the foresight that Carrie had and incorporate models with disabilities."

Nordstrom Disabled Models

Not to be outdone, a cabal of Russian designers presented their haute couture designs for people with a wide range of disabilities in their Fashion With Borders event at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia.
Does this represent a real shift in perspectives when it comes to expanding the idea of beauty? Or are these just sporadic one-offs? What do you think?


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