Disabled models take the LFW catwalk

Errol Kerr discusses what the future holds for disabled models in high fashion

Errol Kerr
6th March 2017

Two visibly physically disabled models were present on the opening show of London Fashion Week, with a far more prevalent political sensitivity than before. The models, Jack Eyers and Kelly Knox, are both missing limbs – the former his left leg and the latter, her lower right arm – were cast by Teatum Jones. Both of these individuals are prominent – Eyers being the first disabled male model to walk during New York Fashion Week, and Knox winning Britain’s Missing Top Model, and their presence on London Fashion Week’s opening show is a huge deal for disabled representation, as the two of them have worked towards normalising disability on a national and international front in the fashion world.

Entitled “The Body”, the show was highly politically charged, including an audio extract from Meryl Streep’s condemning of Donald Trump’s mocking of a disabled journalist. An attempt to reject the idea of the perfect human form as able-bodied, Teatum Jones dressed Eyers in a grey double breasted suit with adjustments made for his legs, and Knox’s bronze blouse had the left arm buttoned up fully and the right showing her full arm.

“Teatum Jones place a significant focus on their love of a human narrative, and in hiring and casting disabled models they cement this approach”

In this way, they worked towards the fashion industry making adjustments to their disabled models and any individuals who wish to wear their clothing lines, rather than just making disabled specific clothing which would work to alienate disabled individuals further.

Teatum Jones place a significant focus on their love of a human narrative, and in hiring and casting disabled models they cement this approach, having spoken with the models prior in order to adapt clothing to Eyers and Knox.

The fashion show indicates the message that disabled people are people and want to be able to wear clothing that’s designed to be practical as well as fashionable. Cat Teatum herself noted that “Able and disabled bodied people don’t have different desires when it comes to fashion. They want great textiles, interesting shapes. Kelly and Jack are dressed in the collection like the other models [...] the overriding message is that we’re all the same.” This message is a huge step forward in acceptance of disability in a fashion front.

“Teatum Jones’ inclusion of two disabled models places them at the same level of able-bodied models, rather than an able bodied cohort ignoring disabled individuals or a fully disabled cohort simply singling out disability”

I hope from here that we see more disabled models – and more models who are more physically impaired. I want to see models in wheelchairs, models who need other mobility supports. Models who can’t necessarily walk on their own without help.

However this is again a massive positive and progressive step. Teatum Jones’ inclusion of two disabled models places them at the same level of able-bodied models, rather than an able bodied cohort ignoring disabled individuals or a fully disabled cohort simply singling out disability. This works to include disability within everyday life rather than being set aside, placing it in a normalised spotlight. Hopefully, more will follow Teatum Jones’ example and hire more disabled models with more varied conditions, creating a space where disability is the norm.

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