The fashion industry, unlike the handicap van industry, has a reputation for being cutthroat, shallow and extremely exclusive. However, we saw something different this year at FTL Moda’s show during New York Fashion Week, were models in wheelchairs and the world’s first male amputee model hit the catwalk. The show was held in collaboration with Fondazione Vertical, an Italian foundation supporting the research of a cure for spinal cord injuries. Models of Diversity, a London-based agency that campaigns for greater diversity of talent in the media and on the runway, was also involved in bringing this concept to life.
The show featured international designers with a “Made in Italy” theme and included models with disabilities from all over the world. The main man behind the show, Antonio Urzi, is well-known for his undeniably quirky designs. His fashions have been worn by A-list celebrities like Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Britney Spears.
Urzi hand-picked 25-year-old Jack Eyers to be the first male amputee model to walk the runway. Eyers, a personal trainer in the UK, suffered from a condition called Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency, which caused his right leg to wither away until he became an amputee at the age of 16. “To be the first male amputee model on a New York Fashion Week runway feels amazing – it feels like such a big deal,” Eyers said.
It really is a big deal, especially for the show’s producer, Ilaria Niccolini. “It is a very significant moment in my fashion career,” Niccolini said. “This opportunity to finally open the most recognized runways in the world to these beautiful talents, ready to show that disability is very often just a mental state by performing on the runway next to some of the best models on the scene.”
FTL Moda’s inspirational showcase is not the only one making fashion history. On February 12, American Horror Story’s Jamie Brewer became the first model with down syndrome to walk the runway at Carrie Hammer’s second annual “Role Models Not Runway Models” show. In Hammer’s 2014 show, Danielle Sheypuk was the first woman in a wheelchair to appear on the runway and Karen Crespo was the first quadruple amputee to do the same. “I think this challenges what we’ve been seeing for way too long. Uniformity. It’s time to see not just diversity — but reality,” Hammer said.
We’re happy to see these fashion designers looking beyond the industry stereotypes and featuring people with disabilities on their runways. It’s truly inspiring to see these changes happening, and we hope it’s only the beginning of what is yet to come.
We encourage you to check out the video of the show and give us your feedback in a comment below!