Yesterday, the first ever adaptive fashion show hit the runway at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week, featuring local labels Christina Stephens and Jam the Label. The groundbreaking showcase prompted a standing ovation, rapturous applause and even a few tears in the audience.
“The response from the audience was very overwhelming, I thought the models looked spectacular, they had amazing confidence. Carol [Taylor], our new lead designer and business partner, is fixing her makeup from crying so much. It’s just beautiful after all the hard work we’ve done,” Christina Stephens founder Jessie Sadler told Inside Retail.
As each model walked the runway, a short video played behind them, where they explained the features of each garment and most importantly, how it made them feel.
“It is really important for people with disabilities to be included in the fashion industry because I believe everyone deserves to be seen,” said one model with prosthetic legs in a video as she strutted the runway.
All of the models on the runway were high-profile disability advocates in the community, including Dinesh Palipana OAM, doctor, lawyer, scientist and 2021 Queensland Australian of the Year and Lisa Cox, disability advocate and media professional and artist and author Suzanne Berry.
However, there were a few surprises during the show, including lacy lingerie, plunging necklines and a well-muscled man in a wheelchair ripping off his shirt, which were met with enthusiastic cheering from attendees. After all, the inspiration behind the Christina Stephens collection yesterday was the wedding night of a quadriplegic man that Taylor had met.
“The groom-to-be was on a Zoom call and Carol heard him having a chat with the other guys who were egging him on about his wedding night, but when he explained he’d never know what it was like to unwrap his bride, everything went silent. You could have heard a pin drop. At that moment, she decided she wanted to solve that issue. That was the inspiration behind the collection,” Sadler explained.
“People with disabilities want to be sexy and gorgeous and they love colour as much as anyone who doesn’t have a disability. There’s been an amazing evolution of the brand since Carol joined us and there’s some really great stuff ahead.”
Australian Fashion Week has been making moves towards creating a more diverse and inclusive event recently. Earlier this week, people with disabilities featured in the Afterpay Future of Fashion Show and Sadler herself appeared on a panel discussion, discussing the need for people with disabilities to be embraced by the industry. This year, two disability consultants also returned to AAFW, disability advocate Lisa Cox and vision-impaired Blind Grit designer Nikki Hind.