Little big changes in the fashion world: let's talk about Sinéad Burke

Sophia Ayub discusses the inspirational work of Sinéad Burke, the first little person to appear on the cover of Vogue and an advocate for inclusivity within fashion.

Sophia Ayub
7th November 2020
In the 2019 September issue of Vogue, guest-edited by Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle, the fashion world was inspired by the cover featuring activist Sinéad Burke. Burke transformed opportunities for minorities, who previously had little to hardly any representation in mainstream fashion media. But who is Sinéad Burke?

Sinéad Burke’s activism and role in fashion have enthused a widened perspective on the potential of increased inclusivism in the fashion industry. But her story as you can imagine didn’t have the best start.

What is Achondroplasia?

Achondroplasia is a rare bone disorder which prevents the changing of cartilage, (particularly in arms and legs) to bone. Having lived with this condition all her life, Burke expressed that she’s no stranger to negative attitudes towards herself. Nonetheless, this has only helped her growth in her resilience and character against the hate. However, one day a run-in with the ignorance of some youths, sadly resulting in a hate crime, left Sinéad hurt and scared. She, however, did not let this get the better of her, allowing herself to grow the motivation to spread awareness and educate people on her personal experiences, in order to raise awareness to encourage understanding in diversity.

Burke's Fashion Fame

Burke was a lecturer and advocate, beginning her work with Vogue after meeting Edward Enniful at a Burberry show, resulting in Burke featuring in The Vogue 25 as one of the most influential women in the UK. This opened up the opportunity for Burke to be a contributing editor at British Vogue. Her work up until this point had a massive impact in Vogue’s movement towards a more inclusive future. But this was only the beginning.

All Hail the Duchess

Throughout Burke’s work with Vogue, she had the opportunity to meet the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle, who was working alongside with Vogue, guest editing for the award-winning ‘Forces for Change’ issue, dedicated to celebrating people making a positive change in the world. In September 2019, Sinéad Burke changed history when she debuted being the first little person on the cover of Vogue. Burke hopes that ‘fashion magazines become a haven and an incubator for conversations narrated by and about disabled people’, and that ‘minority voices and bodies will soon populate the covers and pages of glossy magazines the world over.’

Burke has expressed the astonishing amount of positive response to the article, with young people with disabilities enquiring on how they can pursue a career in fashion.

How incredible a feeling it must be for a young individual to see worldwide beauty in all its forms. That we’re finally evolving and redefining beauty standards, connecting through our differences and celebrating each other. Burke has since released her own book, Break the Mould: How to Take Your Place in the World, and is continuing to change the world, which I for sure can’t wait to see the next step in her journey.

Featured Image: @britishvogue on Instagram

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