Fashion with Passion

On Friday 22nd October I attended London’s first ever fashion show featuring disabled and able bodied models: Fashion with Passion. Created by HAFAD took place at Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College and showcased designs from both new talent and well known brands such as ASOS.com, Full Circle, Yuko and WheelieChix-chic.

The UK has over 10 million disabled people, who have a spending power of £50bn pa. This large market is rarely targeted by the fashion industry and this evening’s show was designed to highlight inclusion for disabled people within this market.

With the themed autumnal stage, free beer at the bar supplied by sponsors of the event; Chang and pumping tracks blasting out from the DJ booth, the vibe was exciting and could’ve rivalled any other acclaimed London Fashion Show.

The show kicked off with Zubee Kibria from HAFAD speaking openly about the trials faced by disabled people when considering fashionable clothing; ‘It’s always a challenge to find something that fits and it’s often expensive to get alterations to clothing… disabled people want to look just as glamorous as able bodied people”. David Proud (who plays Adam Best in Eastenders) was first on stage modelling John Smedleys A/W 2010 hand crafted knits. Exuding confidence, he approached the catwalk showing off with tricks in his wheelchair and styling out the designs on show. There was a tongue-in-cheek sense of humour which the crowd soon picked up on and made everyone cheered along. Next up was the stunning Jordan Bone who modelled for ASOS.com wearing a colourful sequin-detailed top. Her ultra-feminine poise certainly got the audience’s attention whilst she worked the stage to the sounds of Lady Gaga. The ASOS collection highlighted the brands young and funky style.

Other collections that stood out ncluded up-and-coming Japanese designer; Yuko, who showcased her collection with sexy high-waisted tartan trousers accompanied by ruffled shirts that gave a very traditional English feel with an urban edge.  Overall this unique show was buzzing from start to finish.  The sense of excitement mixed with pride from the models was echoed in the applause from the crowd.

Tonight, I took away a single thought from the show that made me question the way in which the fashion industry operates in terms of portraying its consumers.  I reflected on the fact that some of the models here tonight were born disabled and others became disabled. This is something that can happen to an able-bodied person at any time. If I was faced with a disability right now would I no longer want to be fashionable? Would I no longer want to look good? Would I have no further interest in expressing my identity to others through clothing? The answers are no. Fashion is a means of expressing ones identity to others. The message at this show was loud and clear; whether you have a disability or not, you can still enjoy fashion but the key is that it needs to be made more accessible and inclusive.

With this in mind, I wanted to know how the fashion industry in general has ignored the needs of fashion conscious disabled people for so long and whether this show could be the start of something new.

The fashion industry is renowned for its non-inclusive view on modelling, we’ve all seen the lengthy debates surrounding, ethnic and plus size models.  How often has disability been included in these debates? I for one, would like to see a fashion industry that better reflects our society and those that buy these designers clothes, after all there’s no reason not to?

On Friday evening I saw something refreshing and inspiring, a fashion show that shook off an all to prejudice label of disability and proved to everyone who attended that disabled models are more than capable of ‘working-it’ too!

 Text : Chantal-Lawren Sainsbury

Photos : Sarah Morton