Last winter, Jamie Brewer became the first model with Down syndrome to walk a Fashion Week runway. This fall, 18-year-old Aussie Madeline Stuart will be following in her footsteps by modeling in the FTL Moda show, cosponsored by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.
However, she's not the only model with a disability being showcased this September. According to the Daily News, FTL Moda has also brought on Rebekah Marine, a 28-year-old model from New Jersey who was born without a right forearm, so she wears an i-limb quantum prosthetic hand. This shiny appendage comes equipped with gesture control technology, which responds to the muscle movements in Marine's upper arm.
Marine has been modeling for six years, and told People magazine, it was definitely a struggle at first. "It's been quite a journey for me. It was hard at first to put myself out there for the whole world to see. But I've become quite comfortable with myself now, and I'm the happiest I've ever been."
People with disabilities aren't the only way Fashion Week is expanding its diversity. Plus-size models are taking hold in a way they never have before. Plus-size model Ashley Graham has partnered with Canadian brand Addition Elle to launch her own line of lingerie at New York Fashion Week. She told People magazine, "I believe we're the only plus-size fashion show that will be in New York Fashion Week, which is truly exciting." While New York Fashion Week does have a plus-size show alongside it, Graham's will be the only one showcased in the original week.
Graham is already a huge pioneer for body positivity. She was the first plus-size model to be featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, and she also modeled in Lane Bryant's #ImNoAngel lingerie campaign. This week, you can find updates on her fashion show by following #IamSizeSexy.
Transgender models, while not an entirely new addition to Fashion Week runways, are having more and more of a presence, and this Fashion Week is following suit. IMG signed trans model Hari Nef who will likely be walking in shows this fall. Also, according to Mashable, androgynous models like Rain Dove and Roan Louch have already been booked by some of the major labels. These models comfortably model male and female looks interchangeably, which makes them perfect for Fashion Week.
Take that #NYFW. FIRST show down in a gown for @malanbreton . I couldn't be happier to have a friend who supports my mission to create a more integrous world. Love love! Shot by bestie @leonaliang2012 Event by @aichgpr #fashion #nyc #androgynous #andro #tomboy #ladies #mens #humans #littleblackdress #imnotconcernedifuthinkilookdelicate
This is indicative of an originally European fashion trend of embracing the "genderqueer" or "genderfluid" look, which means it falls outside of distinctively male or female. “The genderless phenomenon has been building up its reach for quite a while now,” said Angelo Flaccavento, a fashion critic, to Fusion.
In the wake of America voting "yes" on gay marriage rights, and the many battles over transgender rights in just this past year alone, it's time such a visual industry took a firm stance on inclusion. Hopefully, the more commonplace these current outliers of fashion become, the less judgment they will feel from the world.
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