I am a self-confessed fashion addict, and for a long time I have aspired to work in the fashion industry. Age 10, my friend and I called up our local branch of H&M to secure a clothing collaboration (a fact we both cringe at). Our debut collection was to be filled with scrunchies, flared cargo pants and a rather dubious bralet with the slogan ‘hands off’. What else?! Call us crazy, but we “just knew what kids want” (a line from our sales pitch bless us).
Failed H&M collections aside, within the past year I have made my first forays into this dynamic and creative world. For anyone, this process involves a huge amount of tenacity, but throw in a number of physical obstacles and you’ve got to be extremely committed to make it work. I have a generalised muscle-weakness disability which is a non-progressive condition affecting about one in 50,000 individuals. In recent years, added illness and long stays in intensive care have significantly impacted my mobility, stamina, and the strength of my voice. From a logistical sense this now makes getting around difficult and I’m reliant on a mobility scooter to travel even short distances.
The day after I graduated Oxford University a year ago, I set off for the bright lights of the big city. Well, if only it was that simple. In reality the fashion/media internships I had secured involved meticulous planning and several hours traipsing through the virtual streets of London with the aid of google street view. I didn’t know if it was going to be possible, but I was determined to find a way to succeed.
I’ve always looked to fashion for positive engagement. I want to experience the joy, excitement and creativity of the innovative designs and riotous colours that grace the catwalks each season. But more importantly, I want to be challenged. I’ve always believed fashion goes much deeper than aesthetics, it’s about creativity, culture, identity and most importantly celebrating our difference.
Take for instance the late Alexander McQueen who nearly 20 years ago placed the shockingly beautiful Aimee Mullins on his catwalk in a pair of hand-crafted prosthetic legs. A symbolic two fingers up to historical ideas of what constitutes beauty. McQueen recognised early on that so called ‘deformity’ and ‘otherness’ is really only a label.
Now, there is a shift occurring in the fashion industry. Magazines and brands are recognising that fashion has the potential to showcase inspiring people, change makers and role models for everyone- not just the tiny minority with a traditional model physique. It’s an extremely powerful medium to inspire and challenge our perceptions whether that’s in relation to gender, feminism, race or ability. Fashion has unparalleled access to people and can therefore cultivate a spirit of inclusivity which may reverberate through wider society.
In addition to my archive of work, I’ll be publishing features, inspirations and ideas on this website regularly. So please stay tuned to read more and as ever, let me know what you think.