Tracing a trend: Inclusivity in modelling
As the fashion world mourns the death of Virgil Abloh , one is reminded of the work of another visionary designer, Alexander McQueen.
Back in 1999, McQueen had the foresight to invite double amputee Aimee Mullins to open his Spring Collection. She walked the runway wearing intricately carved wooden legs. Carved from ash, the legs were designed as Victorian knee-length boots with a Louis heel, pointed toe and a slim ankle, decorated with vines and leaves.
Mullins had had both her legs amputated below the knee after suffering from fibular hemimelia. After the McQueen show she shot to stardom and has been at the forefront of fashion ever since. Mullins introduced the world to the idea that an amputee could have a wardrobe of prosthetics built for different occasions, owning 12 different pairs herself. She remained one of McQueen’s favorite muses until he passed away in 2010.
One of the first retailers to book a disabled model was the UK department store chain, Debenhams. In their 2010 advertising campaign, they broke new ground by featuring model Shannon Murray in a wheelchair.
Inspired by McQueen and Mullins, Alexandra Kutas didn't let her disabilities prevent her from dreaming of being a runway model. She can quite rightly claim the title of the world’s first runway model in a wheelchair during Ukraine Fashion Week in 2015. A couple of months later she unveiled a photography exhibition called “Break Your Chains,” alongside photographer Andrei Sarymsakov, in an effort to break down society’s stereotypes and negative perceptions of people with disabilities. She participated in a show in association with Tommy Hilfiger and helped produce the world’s first fashion video featuring disabled models.
In fact Hilfiger was one of the first brands to understand the potential of adaptable fashion, launching Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive in 2017. It's a market that is expected to grow to 400 billion US dollars by 2026.
In 2018, the Antiguan-American model Aaron Rose Philip became the first black, transgender, and physically disabled model to ever be represented by a major modeling agency and has since modeled in several major high fashion photo shoots and campaigns. In 2021, Philip debuted as an exclusive for Moschino’s spring/summer 2022 fashion show - making her the first model using a wheelchair to walk for a major luxury fashion brand.
With the runway season for Fall 2022 just around the corner expect to see more models like Alexandra Kutas and Aaron Rose Philip.