The Representation of the Disabled Community in the Fashion Industry

The 21st century brings a new generation of people within society that are overall more accepting and open to change. The year 2020 was an impactful one, all members of society standing together in support of Black Lives Matter, voicing civil rights, and from this movement developed another: the movement of diversity and inclusion.  This allowed more representation of minority groups such as age, race, gender and different body types as they are all seen equal in today’s modern world. Many creative industries like fashion, sports and TV have adapted promptly to the much-needed change.  From an outsider's perspective, the inclusion of disabled individuals in the fashion industry however is little to none. With the current movement of diversity and inclusion, disability seems to be the last taboo. The research will determine the importance of inclusion discovering how the community truly feels being a minority in fashion. The project identifies a link between the lack of representation with stigma, fear and mental health.   A review of existing literature highlighted the current position of disability in the industry shining a light on models that have made their mark: Sinead Burke, Kelly Knox and Jillian Mercado, while considering their experiences. An introduction was made of how the industry has developed over the years sharing that disabled inclusion makes good business sense. Many journalists provided their advice for the future on how best to represent and cater towards the community.  In addition, a visual analysis presented disabled inclusion in action, in having the conversation and their representation both positively with the likes of Alexander McQueen S/S’99 show and SavageXFenty ‘19 and in a negative light with brands like Kimheckim 2020 showing that discrimination still occurs today.   The study provided a space to discuss the matter with well-rounded advocates and adaptive wear professionals within the fashion industry, with a series of interviews and questionnaires . It revealed that although major progression is occurring in fashion in terms of disability, diversity and inclusion there is still a long way to go.

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